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EV sector comes out swinging against negative stories as sales rocket
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello, I’m Tom Riley and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
It’s great to be back in the saddle after a short break away. For those of you that have joined recently… Hola! Each Tuesday you can expect to receive a digest of the latest EV stories that matter in the UK, insights from people across the sector, regular analysis, exclusive data, and interviews.
Top stories in today’s edition… Tesla starts a scrappage scheme, EU officials are not set on delaying rules of origin, and the EV sector faces down several negative headlines as sales jump.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do get in touch. My contact details are here or simply reply to this email.
EV sector comes out swinging against negative stories
Background: Over the past week, it’s been particularly noticeable that the anti-EV rhetoric has dialed up a notch. First The Times put on their front page that infrastructure is creaking – alongside their own editorial calling for 2030 to be pushed back – and then, over the weekend, the actor Rowan Atkinson wrote in The Guardian that he felt ‘increasingly duped’ by EVs.
In detail: The Times report was based on figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which found there were 36 EVs to each charger, compared to 31 in 2021. They also broke the research down by region, finding some areas a lot more disparate than others – the Northwest allegedly has 85 EVs per charger. The SMMT boss, Mike Hawes, seemed especially critical against the charging industry saying “at the moment they are behind the curve” and “playing catch-up with demand.” The Times wrote that carmakers were behind-the-scenes – presumably led by SMMT – pushing for a mandate on charger installations.
True facts? The SMMT figures look alarming, though I’m personally a bit perplexed by how they are calculated. For example, my recent analysis using their public data found it was actually 18 EVs for each charger. Perhaps they have classed what a ‘charger’ is differently. In any case, the report failed to underline the hundreds of thousands of home chargers, as well as tens of thousands of workplace devices.
Old facts? When it came to Rowan’s column, the actor promoted figures from an old Volvo study on CO2 emissions that has since been debunked (good thread here). Additionally, nothing was said about the extra costs and infrastructure required for the alternative fuels he pointed readers to.
Response: People across the EV spectrum have understandably been going mad at these various media reports which continue to spread falsehoods. ChargeUK Chair, Ian Johnston, came out swinging against the Times report saying it was “completely misleading” in punchy comments for Sunday Times Driving. He also highlighted how operators wanted to install more, and that barriers are preventing them from going faster.
Next steps: Articles like Rowan’s and The Times are not the first and won’t be the last. What’s been great to see is that leaders across the sector have stood up to defend – I’ve lost count of how many myth-busting social media posts I’ve seen – and the facts do speak for themselves eventually. Likewise, I’ve noticed the tone of SMMT in its latest vehicle update, which showed a 58.7% increase in EV registrations for May compared to the same time last year, is a lot more positive - as people evidently are still jumping into EVs in droves. However, we need to be careful not talk into an echo chamber. There is a long way to go, some genuine worries, and no doubt many challenges ahead - and we need people with us.
Transport Scotland ‘hits back’ at Fast Charge
Background: It was a couple of weeks ago now, though you may recall in my last Fast Charge I revealed that Transport Scotland was making plans to break up its national charging network, ChargePlace Scotland (CPS), for it to be managed largely by the private sector in the future through local authorities.
Result: Following my publication, it was good to see several other media outlets publish stories about this including Autocar, National World, Fleet World, as well as being syndicated to many other outlets in Scotland.
Behind-the-scenes: After publishing, and despite me being extremely open in advance with Transport Scotland about what I was planning to write about, I received a call from their press office where some chap proceeded to rage at me about how my report was false and inaccurate. When he eventually shared the statement to clarify their position, it was exactly the same as the one they’d originally shared (and I’d used)! Bonkers.
Why so angry? The crux of their frustration with my story was that I highlighted the contract they have with Swarco is due to end this Summer, but they are yet to re-sign it. Despite claims this is inaccurate because they intend to extend it, their spokesperson was unable to confirm on the record that it would be signed.
New response: Several days afterwards, CPS published on its website a new statement following the media reports. You can view it here. They repeated the claim that my report was “inaccurate” though again failed to evidence, only saying they “remain focussed on continuing to deliver a high-quality charging experience for drivers.”
Final word: It was never my intention to fall out with the team at CPS – they have set Scotland up extremely well. The rumour of a split-up was something I’d first been told about at the start of this year, and since spoken to numerous well-placed sources about it in the months following – so I did my homework. Anyway, we move forward.
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Latest EV news…
BATTERY RULES: To solve the challenge on the immediate horizon for carmakers with ‘rules of origin’ changes in 2024, according to the FT, two senior officials in Brussels said the UK should sign up to an existing pact among more than 20 other European, Middle Eastern and North African countries that ‘treats goods assembled in one country from parts made in another signatory state as originating in the exporting country, thereby avoiding tariffs and quotas’. Meanwhile, the UK is keen for the rules to just be delayed until 2027. Read more (paywall).
MINIERAL INVESTMENT: News last week that a British consortium of businesses, that includes mining giant Glencore, is investing about $9 billion in Indonesia's mining and battery sectors. Apparently, Indonesia has one of the world’s largest nickel reserves. Read more.
NEW REPORT: It was a couple of weeks ago now, but I was pleased to attend the launch of Auto Trader’s latest report on women and the EV transition. The report, No Driver Left Behind, which was based on a survey of 4,000 people, found a quarter of women (25%) perceive EVs to be more expensive to run than petrol or diesel cars, despite being on average £86 cheaper per 1,000 miles. The study also uncovered that the current marketing of EVs is not providing women confidence and was often focused on things like technology that respondents cared little about. It’s a very interesting report – which is published in full on its own website here – and is well worth a read.
Also… while some in the sector have argued that we shouldn’t be focussing on specific driver characteristics, I believe reports like this are helpful. We’re still at the dawn of EVs – despite what the papers say – so this data can help us find the right solutions.
SMALL CAR: After the popularity of the Citroen AMI, Fiat has come up with its own version of a microcar called the Toplino. As you can see from the picture below, it will come with a sunroof, though instead of doors, you’ll get a VIP nightclub-style rope. Presumably, it also comes with a bouncer. Read more.
Bonus… On the topic of the Toplino, check out this video of it on a yacht where the team try to hide it from paparazzi.
OPEN LETTER: Speaking of Fiat, in an open letter to the government, Damien Dally, Fiat’s UK managing director, has said urgent steps were required to incentivise consumers to buy electric cars, suggesting that government targets for electric vehicle sales were at risk. Damian said: “With the cost of living crisis and rising cost of electric vehicles, coupled with our net zero climate targets, we believe more needs to be done to incentivise individuals to be able to afford to make the switch.” Read more.
VAN VOLTS: In May deliveries of new electric vans grew by a fifth (19.8%) to 1,041 units in total – a 15.5% increase compared to the same period last year. Read more.
CHARGING ETIQUETTE: Do you remember those paper cards with a wheel in that you’d use when parking in town – which would show when you arrived or are leaving – well LeasePlan want to bring them back for EVs. Their vision is that people can put them on their windscreens for other drivers to see when they’ll be done charging. Would that be helpful? Read more.
REG UPDATE: Last week the Department for Transport shared an update on work undertaken under part 2 of the the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018. This part relates to powers to improve the consumer charging experience, increasing the provision of infrastructure, and to help that infrastructure to benefit the energy system. In the update, it says that legislation relating to consumer experience (like roaming) will be laid “in the coming months”. Read more.
MISSED TARGET: Despite the Welsh Government previously describing accelerating EV uptake as “one of the most important actions”, it appears its plan to install chargers has not met 5 of its 9 targets, a Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure (CCEI) Committee inquiry in Wales has found. Read more.
NI BOOST: Octopus (the investment arm) has given £50m to Belfast-based EV company Weev to launch a major charging point rollout. Read more.
UPGRADED NETWORK: Bp Pulse is upgrading chargers across 14 locations in Milton Keynes. The upgrade primarily affects 25 chargers which were 7kW and the company will also be installing new 50kW devices. Good news. Read more.
NEW PRICING: The rapid charging company Gridserve has announced that it is updating prices on its Electric Highway network. From 1 June, there will be a single price of £0.69 per kWh for DC charging and £0.49 per kWh for standalone AC charging. This means a slight headline increase for rapid chargers, but not by much. Read more or see the update on their website.
LOGO CHANGE: Jaguar Land Rover, which recently revealed its ‘Reimagine’ strategy to move the company electric, has now revealed a new logo. The switch has not gone down favourably, with many concluding the change to a more ‘corporate’ feel underlines its transition to a house of brands. See here.
VALUE DOWN: New research by Car Dealer magazine has found that, over the past six months, 29 of the 30 biggest depreciating used cars are electric models. Read more.
ROAD TAX: In a new report, the Resolution Foundation think tank has called for a 6p per mile ‘Road Duty’ charge to be levied on EVs to help fill the financial black hole caused by declining fuel duty revenue as drivers switch away from combustion engines. Read more. See the report.
STAND DOWN: Talking of new reports, in a paper published last week, the Policy Exchange argued that the UK should not try to match the subsidies that are available in the EU and the US but “should focus on other ways of encouraging investment, and on removing obstacles that put UK-based battery firms at a disadvantage”. The think tank believes self-sufficiency in all phases of the battery supply chain is not a realistic objective, so we should come to terms with being a major importer. Find it here.
PRODUCT UPDATE: British Gas has revealed the launch of its Hive EV charger – a small, more affordable EO charger – as the latest addition to its smart home charging offer. Read more.
SCRAP SCHEME: As it continues to go on the aggressive hunt for new sales, Tesla has revealed a new scrappage scheme for car owners in the UK. Those interested can trade in their old petrol or diesel vehicle with a value of less than £2,000. In addition to receiving a credit for the trade-in value of the car, Tesla will provide an additional credit of £2,000, meaning owners could receive a value of up to £4,000. How many people have a £2k car and then buy a £50k+ Tesla though? Read more.
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