Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In this morning’s edition… a third price rise by InstaVolt, the UK gets its first marine electric chargers, and I recap a busy day at Fully Charged Live last week.
I hope you’re enjoying this email. If I do say so myself, over the next few weeks I’ve got some great editions lined up - stay tuned! As ever, if you have any questions or comments, please do drop me a line (email@example.com) or simply reply to this email.
In the last week…
PRICE RISE: One of the nation’s largest rapid charging networks, InstaVolt, which operates 764 chargers, will this week raise its prices for the third time since the energy crisis began. From 4 May, the company will charge 57p per kWh across all its chargers. Back in November, the price was 40p. Since then, InstaVolt rose the cost to 45p per kWh in December before bumping it up to 50p in February. Adrian Keen, their CEO, said that “the volatile energy market and record high inflation means we face no choice but to pass on some of these costs to consumers.” He added that the company had tried to “absorb costs where possible.” These small incremental rises are starting to pinch. To demonstrate, if you charged up a smaller car with a 50kWh in November it would be £24 including VAT (£4). Now, the price is £34.20 (£5.70 of which is VAT).
BIG BLINK: The American group, Blink Charging, announced last week that it had bought the UK company EB charging for about $23 million. EB Charging currently has about 1,150 public chargers across the country. This is Blink’s first entrance into the UK market and they have plans to expand EB’s current offering. Read more.
CHIEF SPEAKS: At a recent House of Lords environment committee hearing, the government’s Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested that it was “totally impossible for the vast majority of the population” to buy an EV. His comments were made regarding a line of questioning about how people can change behaviours to reduce emissions. Sir Patrick advised that making small changes like eating less meat, cycling to work and flying less were ways people could make a big difference. The choice of words could have perhaps been better used but Vallance did say that EV costs were reducing, and infrastructure was getting better. Though some of the British press lapped up the comments. Like the Mail.
MINERAL TALK: Yesterday, President Biden announced he was using $3 billion of planned funding to boost battery production in the States. A key part of the funding will be providing grants to support battery recycling. Read more. Elsewhere, the new boss of Volvo has suggested he believes “battery supply is going to be one of the things that comes into scarce supply in the years to come.” Read more.
AQUA POWER: I know we typically talk about car chargers, however, big news from the South coast. Last week the UK’s first marine electric vessel chargers were revealed in Plymouth. Across the seafront, several high-speed chargers have been installed including a 150kW facility. While these are the first such devices others are expected to be installed along the coastline soon, including in Devon and Cornwall. Read more.
BROKEN POINT: For those with interests over the pond, there was a fascinating article in Wired last week about how poor reliability could stall the EV revolution in the US. Naturally, this is an issue the government over here (UK) is very alert to, hence the new reliability and consumer support rules coming in this Summer. Read it here.
NEW PARTNER: VW and BP have formed a new strategic partnership to rollout 8,000 new EV chargepoints across Europe. 4,000 of these chargers will be built at BP retail sites between the UK and Germany. The connectors in question will all be 150kW rapid ones. Read more.
CAR OWNERSHIP: One of the biggest pieces of news in EV world last week was that the government is considering legalising private e-scooters. At the moment, if you own an e-scooter you can only ride it on private land - albeit, pretty much everyone ignores this. It seems in the face of people ignoring the rules and the huge cost to enforce such a policy, the UK believes it’s better to legalise - no doubt they’ve also been monitoring deaths/injuries for them and feel comfortable. What this means for the many shared e-scooter schemes, I’m not sure. However, it does bring one question to mind: in urban areas do you actually need a car at all? This is something The Times has written about only this morning, suggesting the culmination of EVs, more work-from-home and cost of living is putting many people off running a car altogether. To me, certainly, in places like London, I could envisage ownership going down. But surely for the many millions not in a connected city like London are likely to still very much need high-car use in future. Read more.
Fully Charged Recap
As I’m sure many of you may have seen, over the weekend it was Fully Charged Live in Farnborough, the largest event around for EVs and clean energy. I attended on Friday and it was great to meet many of you there. The show itself was massive this time around, especially surprising given the last one was only held last September. I had some fascinating conversations with some brilliant people, here’s a very quick round-up of a couple of things I picked up.
GOVT ACTION: I arrived at the event just before lunch as a talk began on ‘whether the government was walking the walk’ on renewables. On the panel was Rachel Hayes from the energy experts Regen, Quentin Wilson of the new-ish FairCharge lobby group, James Court the new-ish CEO of the EV Association for England, Roger Atkins of EV Outlook, and Robert Llewellyn who chaired. It was interesting watching the dynamics of Wilson versus Court – more of that later – but a key shared concern was that if people (EV owners) don’t speak up enough in support of EV policy we could see action by the government fizzle out. This was in the context of upcoming local elections where the Tories look set for a rough night. But before you punch the air, if that’s your politics, the point made on stage was that after such a night will be increasing pressure on the Prime Minister from his party to drop policies like the environmental agenda. And so we hearty EV folk will need to pull out the pen to our MPs to ensure this doesn’t happen. I found this tone struck by Wilson and Court interesting because it seemed to ride slightly against the, perhaps, emphatic energy produced by the audience and other panel members that the government should actually do a lot more.
LOBBY BOYS: During the course of the day, I had several conversations with both the EV Association and FairCharge to understand their aims and objectives. To my mind, both seem to slightly overlap in their missions but differ in approach. FairCharge, set up by former Top Gear host Quentin Wilson following his resignation from FairFuel, seems to be set on more typical political campaigning – getting on the news, sending MP letters, rallying troops and using a soapbox. Meanwhile, the EV Association seems more interested in backroom politics to achieve its policy aims. From speaking to its team, they would much rather be the go-to call for policymakers rather than a radio producer. Both approaches will have their merits and at least cover all bases – good for EV drivers – though, once they both find their feet, it will be an interesting dynamic to follow.
Y U HERE? Readers may recall that, at the last Fully Charged event, the Tesla Owners UK club brought over a German Model Y – before its UK release – to present at the show. It received quite a bit of fanfare as many predicted it would become one of the UK’s most popular cars – which according to recent data it has. Following the event, I got told Tesla HQ was rather ‘angry’ with the club as it scuppered their own launch plans. I’d always wondered how Tesla found out about the display of the Model Y and over the weekend I found out. Turns out it was incognito staffers from Tesla who discovered their new car on display at Fully Charged last year. Well, it seems they’ve learnt their lesson because at the event this year Tesla attended and provided their own test drives. I asked the owners club why they thought Tesla themselves had turned up this year (was it because they were annoyed?). Naturally, the club defended their engagement but did suggest that perhaps Tesla has realised they cannot be ‘complacent’ given the rising competition from other carmakers. When I asked Tesla’s representative why they were attending this year but didn’t last time, I was answered with silence. I do think it’ll be interesting to see if Tesla now starts conducting more marketing in the UK following the event – typically they do very little.
Y U GOOD: In nicer Tesla news, I did get the opportunity to test drive a Model Y on the roads around Farnborough. In short, I was supremely impressed. I thought the whole driving experience was like riding the inside of Jony Ive’s mind. From acceleration and the cornering to the outrageous level of technology and tidiness – there’s something very Japanese about the way it’s all put together. I was at first very unsettled with how literally everything is controlled by the central pad, but I suppose you get used to it. Albeit I certainly only looked at my speedo once. My only criticisms of the Model Y would be there’s a limited view out the back window – meaning you rely on the bat sonar when reversing – and the satnav was deeply pedantic and unhelpful. There were moments I also thought the steering wheel was a bit heavy. Given the time I had, I probably didn’t get to try all the gizmos and gimmicks the Model Y has to offer though I did try out ‘romance mode’. However, as I was sitting on my own in an Aldi car park, I thought it best not to do a Neil Parish so headed back.
FAST CHAT: Last time I was in Farnborough, I spoke to Fully Charged’s CEO, Dan Caesar, about how it all started and where the future was headed. On Friday evening, I was able to catch up with Dan about how he thought everything was progressing. The striking thing about this event compared to last year was the huge increase in ‘home’ products and advice for attendees, Dan explained that while “electric cars hog a lot of attention” the fact that energy is suddenly in the news has made a lot of people rethink how their home is powered. Given the rising crisis, I asked Dan what he made of the Government's recent energy security strategy. “I thought it was weak, dog-whistling to certain sectors,” suggesting that the area we should focus on is insulating homes better. Dan did admit the government does seem to be “sending the right signals”. It’s Dan’s view that government needs to start using its available levers to effect faster change, this includes a windfall tax. “We should be creating windfall taxes but also decoupling the price of electricity from gas. The volatility with fossil fuels is just beginning.”
ON EVs: Back on cars, Dan is still of the view that “by 2028 people will not be interested in internal combustion cars” and so the government should really remove plug-in hybrids from being allowed after 2030 altogether – instead only allowing pure electrics. I asked him what he thought of the recent infrastructure plan for chargers, Dan felt it was “not good enough” and again they should be using their levers. “The government has an opportunity to make a difference. Sometimes you need them involved, but it is a balancing act because sometimes they get involved and f**k it up.”
BIG SCREEN: When we chatted in September, Dan suggested that the next stop for the Fully Charged Show would be getting on the big screen, such as a streaming platform. Since then, they’ve been rather preoccupied capitalising on sorting their huge event calendar around the globe, however, Dan has revealed plans are afoot. “We’ve had some good early-stage conversations,” Dan told me. “We have interest and a couple of different options. We’re hoping by the end of this year we’ll have something to say.” You can follow Dan on Twitter here.
MISSED YOU: As I ended up being a lot busier than expected while at Fully Charged, I just want to shout out a few businesses I promised to see but couldn’t get around to. Notably Equiwatt, an app that very cleverly saves your energy bill, L-Charge, which is developing an interesting idea of using clean fuels to provide off-grid ultra-rapid charging stations, and Charge Amps, a Nordic smart EV charger designed in collaboration with Koenigsegg’s chief designer.
MINISTERIAL VISIT: Finally, this didn’t happen while I was at Fully Charged, but it seems on Sunday the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, swung by the event. Shapps published a short video on his TikTok account with Robert Llewellyn. Watch it here.
By Tom Riley