EV searches surge as fuel prices rise
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… EV internet activity rises sharply, Ford puts the foot down, London paramedics go electric, and what can you do with 8 USB sockets?
As ever if you have any questions or suggestions, please do drop me a line (email@example.com) or simply reply to this email.
In the last week…
CHARGE HAILING: Uber is investing some £5 million into building around 700 EV chargers in London’s Newham, Brent and Redbridge. This will boost the total number of London chargepoints by 7%. The investment is interesting as it’s a way for Uber to further persuade some of its drivers – I imagine many might live in these boroughs – to get an EV. This is all ahead of Uber saying it will expand its ‘Uber Green’ service – whereby users can ask to be picked up in an EV. Apparently, the new chargepoints will be Uber branded. Read more.
MOTORING ON: Only a couple of weeks after the announcement that Ford would split its company between the new (Model E) and old (Ford Blue), the company yesterday revealed it would launch seven EV models in Europe by 2024 – one of these will be an electrified Ford Puma, one of its most popular models. The company also said it would target sales of 600,000 EVs a year by 2026. A big part of the announcement was that Ford is teaming up with VW to use its ‘MEB’ platform (currently used in the ID.4) to produce some new crossovers. Alongside the news of vehicles, Ford also said it was looking to open a gigafactory in Turkey. Read more. Or even more here.
EV-BRILATOR: More Ford news as last week the London Ambulance Service said it was buying 42 Mustang Mach-Es. The EVs will be used by paramedics to reach patients and is part of a wider upgrade. About 100 of its cars (including those behind-the-scenes) will be electric or hybrid by 2023. Ford said they were “incredibly excited” by the news. Read more. The ambulance service isn’t the first emergency service to move to EVs, the police are already trialling out Teslas.
SURGING INTEREST: There’s been a lot of stories recently about the perilous situation the world economy is in, and in the UK it will certainly be something the Chancellor focuses on in his Spring Statement next week. Despite what many people are saying, including some nutters who are blaming the Net Zero agenda, the fact is even before Putin decided to launch his invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, prices were starting to rise to uncomfortable levels on many fronts. From the cost of wholesale gas to raw materials, supply chain problems and high demand is leading to rising costs for consumers globally. Something will have to be done and, potentially next week, the Prime Minister will unveil a new ‘energy supply strategy’ as one way we can avoid bumps in future. But what does this mean for EVs? Well, despite the semi-conductor supply edging towards a better place these last few months, the lasting scars and rising commodity costs (such as for nickel and lithium) is making production difficult and costly – as a recent example, start-up Rivian had to review its EV sale prices up between 17-20%. This reality, and the fact an increasing number of people have tighter wallets in their pockets, could have an impact on EV demand. As it’s much cheaper to run an EV than to fill up a car with dino juice - according to energy experts, the price of fuel may rise up to £3 within months - a lot more people are likely entertaining the prospect of an EV. In fact, according to Google Trends (which monitors internet traffic) searches for EVs are forecasted to reach similar high levels to the last fuel crisis in September. When you look at it over the past five years it’s even starker. The only problem then is the prices to buy EVs remain high, and if Rivian is anything to go by they may end up going up.
REUSE, RECHARGE: As material prices increase, one thing that is going to become increasingly valuable is recycling – especially EVs, given the rare-earth elements used in batteries. In this light, last week, Mercedes announced they are building a plant to recover resources from their old models – they expect recovery from the batteries to be around 96%. Eventually, these plants could produce up to 50,000 battery platforms for the Mercedes vehicles. Superb. Read more.
UN-GRIDDED: Last Tuesday, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it had secured legally-binding commitments from Gridserve that will mean its exclusive rights over motorway service spots won’t be enforced. This move followed an investigation by the CMA that started last year and is now closed. It will mean new rapid chargepoints can be built at Extra, MOTO and Roadchef service areas – which covers about two-thirds of motorway areas. Though Gridserve is doing a great job upgrading and building out its network, this is a good move that will ensure a wider, more plentiful and competitive market – good for consumers. Read more.
HIDDEN CHARGE: Speaking of chargers, it seems some Bitcoin miners in Guangzhou city, China – which is an illegal practice there – set up 190 servers within an EV charging station to disguise the amount of energy they were using. For those unaware, Bitcoin mining is, in very simple terms, where a computer solves a puzzle to unlock a ‘bitcoin’ from the system. This coin is valuable but the energy used to get them is huge. This made using an EV charging station the perfect place to hide in plain sight. However, the culprits were found and are probably now in a prison somewhere. Read more.
PRICE PEDAL: This past week I’ve noted quite a few articles about the benefits of ebikes, potentially following some research by ‘Bike is Best’ suggesting they could create £2 billion health benefits and cut emissions. I personally think ebikes are great, but I know the costs are huge – the aforementioned research suggested 67% are put off by the price. As a result, campaigners are calling for greater subsidies. Read more.
NEW BUZZ: A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the trial ID. Buzz (based on the original VW Camper) was finally on British streets. However, at that point, people were still yet to see the inside of the new van EV. But now VW has revealed it all. My first impression is, much like the outside, the innards look quite snazzy and colourful. There are 5 seats and lots of space for activities or surfboards. The statistic for this that has really caught my eye, though, is that VW will offer the van with up to 8 (eight!?) USB ports. I assume this is part of the ‘adventureness’ of the Buzz, which also comes with bi-directional charging. Meaning you could take a lawnmover with you on holiday, or something… Read more.
SWAP OUT: The concept of battery swapping is still quite a niche field, despite first being seen as a popular strategy back in the early 2010s, it’s only really been very successful for two businesses. The first is Gogoro, a Taiwanese electric moped company that’s facilitated 270 million battery swaps at its 2,200+ stations since 2015. The second is NIO, the Chinese EV business with ambitions to conquer the world with stations – thus far it has over 800 in China. It’s potentially a great idea as, once you have enough stations, it becomes untenable for a competitor to catch up and, as a consumer, you get guaranteed speedy swaps. But there are many pitfalls. The main one is that in no reasonable world is everyone going to own the same car, with the same battery. This means battery swapping will likely always be something only a few manufacturers use. It is also a huge added cost to have extra batteries waiting for customers, fully charged up. However, despite all this and more, one business in Berlin, Swobbee, has come up with an interesting approach. In essence, they are bringing in a battery swapping network for micromobility vehicles. The network already supports Hermes, DHL and DPD who use smaller ebike style vehicles to deliver items. Last week they received new investment to the tune of $6.5m. Cool. Read more.
By Tom Riley