Exclusive: Majority of British Ministerial cars still rely on fossil fuels

Plug into the latest in electric motoring.

Good morning and welcome back to the Fast Charge, the newsletter that will plug you into the latest in electric motoring. My name is Tom Riley and I’ll be your host.

Today’s email contains some very interesting insights. Not only about the demand for pickup trucks but also I’ve obtained exclusive figures from the UK Government about their ministerial fleet and its progress towards going electric.

As ever, if you do find The Fast Charge interesting, please do share it or invite your friends to sign-up. Likewise, do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

In the news…

TRUCKS AWAY: New research has suggested that 40% of Americans looking to buy a pickup truck in the next two years would go electric. This figure is a lot higher than what most people would probably expect. However, maybe not so unsurprising when you look at the money being poured into electric pickup trucks by companies. From Tesla’s Cybertruck to the surging Rivian brand and even Ford, everyone is trying hard to capture the huge demand (in the US especially) for pickups. Well, it certainly doesn’t look like it will be a wasted investment. Read more.

EV BUBBLE: I wrote last week how the Chinese company Evergrande - that had tried muscling in on EV but made little progress - looked doom to fail. However, the massively indebted company shocked this week by receiving tens of billions of dollars from investors. Its shares surged 67% and its EV section is now valued at more than the entire Ford Motor Company. Perhaps when the Financial Times changed tack and called out this market as a bubble, they were right.

TOO LATE: Speaking of overvaluations, one eager Tesla commentator believes its stock is undervalued. Their account TSLA - The Big Long analysed current and future sales numbers to predict a share price in 2030 of $28,000. That would give Tesla a market capitalisation (value of shares) of nearly $40 trillion - it’s currently at $834 billion. Crikey.

TAKEOVER: It’s not just car manufacturers that are seeing their value increase, Royal Dutch Shell - the oil company - has agreed to buy Ubitricity, owner of the largest public charging network for electric vehicles in the UK. The sale is for an undisclosed amount but will fully plant Shell in prime position to offer public charging to EV owners. Ubitricity owns over 2,700 charging points and is the innovative company that’s been turning street lights in Britain into charging points. I mentioned them last week as being key in ensuring flat owners don’t miss out on electric ownership.

NO OPPOSITION: Despite all this investment, the British Labour Party has called on the UK to invest more in helping manufacturers make the switch to electric production. This is because making the switch is hugely expensive - some manufacturers aren’t even bothering. The figure they’ve floated is similar to what France and Germany have provided to manufacturers - which would be around £10 billion. Labour also wants to see greater investment into electric buses and the charging network. 

TIPPING POINT: It’s been predicted that between 2023 and 2025 will be the moment when mass adoption of electric cars occurs. This is due to attractive offers of tax relief, grants and increasingly cheaper and better battery tech. Although most car owners still claim range anxiety over not picking an EV, increasing investment in charging points and innovations such as the five-minute battery will likely change this perspective. The consultants Mckinsey actually suggest electrics are the most economic choice for consumers over the next five years. Read more.

Exclusive: Majority of British Ministerial cars still rely on fossil fuels

No more than a week of being in office and President Joe Biden has announced the US federal government’s fleet of vehicles will be swapped for American-made EVs.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we're going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, by American workers,” Biden announced yesterday.

This is a big move for the US. The government fleet includes 650,000 vehicles and will be no small feat to replace them. But, in doing so, Biden will begin to make good on his promise of creating 1 million jobs in the auto industry.

Given this pledge, I decided to do some research on how our British politicians are getting on with going electric. 

Exclusive figures

In order to get a full picture, I have obtained new figures from the Department of Transport via a Freedom of Information request* about the UK’s Government Car Service.

The cars in this fleet are used by Cabinet Ministers to take them around Westminster, on visits or pretty much anywhere.

A government car is important because it not only transports and protects ministers, but they are also symbols of how we want to be viewed.

For example, Her Majesty the Queen can often be seen in a Rolls Royce, signifying royalty and class. Whereas the American President has traditionally arrived everywhere in ‘the Beast’, alongside a circus of armed vehicles - signifying strength. Meanwhile, senior politicians in the UK have traditionally been swished around in sleek understated black Jaguars.

However, with the various climate pledges that have been made by nations, especially here in the UK where the internal combustion engine will be banned in 2030, the government cars should surely reflect this and lead by example.

While good progress has been made, there is still a long way to go as I can reveal:

  • The Government Car Service (GCS) currently operates an 87 vehicle fleet to ferry ministers around

  • 21% of these cars are battery electric vehicles (18 in total)

  • 79% are still powered in some or in all parts by fossil fuels (petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles)

  • 26 of the vehicles are hybrids (which run on a mixture of fuel and electricity) compared to 43 petrol and diesel cars.

It’s unknown which battery-electric cars are being used - I asked if it included a Tesla but was told it did not. However, one thing is for certain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is certainly not being driven around in an electric car. 

Since his announcement of a 2030 ban, the PM has regularly been spotted getting in and out of different Jaguar XJ Sentinels in Downing Street. This car is a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 model. Very nice but perhaps not as eco-conscious as he should be. Especially with the UK hosting a global climate conference later this year.

I asked the Department of Transport what their plan was to be pure electric by 2030 and they said:

“With support from the Department for Transport, GCS will continue to replace vehicles due for renewal with Ultra Low or Zero Emission alternatives that take into consideration operational requirements.

“With the improvements in zero emission vehicle technology and the ever-increasing availability of electric vehicle chargers across the UK, GCS expects to be operating a mainly electric vehicle fleet in advance of 2030.”

Perhaps they are waiting for a truly stellar British made EV to appear on the scene.

By Tom Riley

*FOI response received January 2021