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EV charger boost from 'future planing reform' DfT minister suggests
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, though I’m pleased to have met many people across the EV sector in that time and also to have come back from the Conservative Party conference with a few new insights.
Anyhow, back to business as usual. In today’s bumper edition… my reflections from Tory conference, is the 300,000 charger target unrealistic, and Newcastle Council fails to attract an EV partner.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, my contact details are below or simply reply to this email.
Should the EV sector be worried by team Truss?
If you ever want to know what it’s like at a political party conference, the best description I have is the smoking area of a university town nightclub. Lots of young people with big, passionate arguments alongside several older people who should really be curled up in front of Antiques Roadshow. At least, that’s how I found Tory Party conference.
As you’ve no doubt read in the papers, this year’s was a particularly strange affair as Truss and her Chancellor battled it out against their now seriously active unofficial opposition, notably former colleagues on the backbenches, like Michael Gove and Grant Shapps. But, despite their best efforts, she remains Prime Minister, and until that changes her ‘Growth Plan’ is what businesses will have to work around.
One of my ambitions while at conference was to try and uncover the likely position of Truss’ government on green matters, notably the EV sector. Here’s what I picked up…
As readers will know, immediately at the start of her term, Liz Truss commissioned Chris Skidmore, former energy minister and chair of the Conservative Environment Network, to complete a review of Net Zero policies. The aim of this review is to suggest a way forward to meet the UK’s net zero targets which ‘maximises economic growth’ and increases ‘energy security and affordability for consumers and businesses.’
In the background, Chris has been getting to work undertaking this review, including getting out in-person meeting businesses and organisations (see his Twitter for more). But, is this just a case of making a show of engagement which will ultimately lead to curtailed ambitions? After all, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary who will receive the review, is known to prefer the market to naturally shift towards greener living, rather than government intervention to make it so.
Fortunately, at Tory Conference, there were several groups promoting environmental causes. One such was a fringe event on the ‘decarbonisation of private transport’ hosted by the think tank Green Alliance with Huw Merriman MP (Chair of the Transport Select Committee). Speaking to those in the room afterwards, many argued the government could not go back on its green pledges. After all, they were in the 2019 manifesto.
But does this include EVs? I’m not so sure. Looking back at it today, it’s correct that the Conservatives promised to “lead the global fight against climate change by delivering on our world-leading target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”. However, on clean transport, they’d only ever promised to consult on the phase-out date of petrol and diesel cars. To me, this may leave an open door should MPs like Rees-Mogg wants to push at it.
We will support clean transport to ensure clean air, as well as setting strict new laws on air quality. We will consult on the earliest date by which we can phase out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars. Conservative 2019 Manifesto.
During the conference, there was one entire event dedicated to discussing EVs (titled ‘Are electric vehicles actually good for the environment?’). It was hosted by the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) and on the panel was Selaine Saxby MP (member of CEN), Michael Lewis (CEO of E.ON), Quentin Willson (FairCharge campaign), Ian Courts (Leader of Solihull Council) and Katherine Fletcher MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport).
It was rather an odd panel, as the only two people who fully knew the brief about clean transport were Quentin and Michael, who had to take turns fact-checking others. The Ian fella seemed uninterested and, astoundingly, Selaine, who is meant to be on the panel representing CEN, was quite clueless about EVs. She even claimed to have a self-charging one, to the shocked gasp of most in the room. But, crucially, Katherine, the DfT Minister, seemed to give some glimmer on where the government could be heading.
Here are some notes I made of key comments Katherine made at the session:
She acknowledged EVs are good for us economically, for domestic security, and for the planet.
She agreed that accessibility is a concern, especially for those in terraced houses
She shared a feeling that rural Britain may be being left behind in the EV transition
She suggested it was ‘for the birds’ that petrol infrastructure would not always exist and be needed – she suggested several times that the term ‘petrol head’ would exist for years to come
When asked about the phase-out, she at first concluded ‘let’s leave it’ but then slightly backtracked suggesting facts may change
One reflection she made during the discussion is that people often tell her of EVs and other green initiatives that decisions are made before thinking about how to deliver them
As the event closed, she rather excitedly suggested that there may be ‘future planning reform’ announcement coming down the line in this area, perhaps making it easier for EV infrastructure to be installed.
What can we conclude from this? On the negative end, I would suggest that they could look to fully embrace the ‘market-led’ approach. A more likely read, we may see new planning reforms that make it easier and quicker to install on-street charging – this would chime with the mini-Budget that earmarked two EV charging funds to be accelerated.
Whatever the case, though, let’s remember that this government may be on its last legs, so I wouldn’t be too anxious.
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Is 300,000 a pipe dream?
Back in March, the government suggested an aim of there being 300,000 EV chargepoints available across the UK by 2030 under their assessments.
I’ve been looking at what might be needed to deliver this and I’m struggling to see how it could be a reality. According to Zap-Map’s latest figures, the number of chargepoints increased by 35% from September 2021 to 2022. That suggests an increase of about 12,200 in one year – bringing the current total to 34,860.
That means to meet the 2030 target, the UK would need to be adding 33,000 chargers annually to reach 300,000. Is that possible?
Many argue it is and point to the continued high growth of the network year-on-year. However, even if the UK continued to throttle up at 35% growth per year, as an example, that would mean having to install about 74,000 chargers in 2029 – which is 200 per day. And even then we’d still be short of the 300,000 milestone.
The graph below demonstrates the challenge. The blue line represents continued 35% growth, the grey is simply the current number minus 300,000 divided by no. of years left to 2030, and the orange line is where we might be if we continue to add 12,200 per year.
Where do you think we’ll get to by 2030? Drop me an email or comment.
News from the last week…
ONE MILLION: According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this month the UK registered its millionth EV – this includes both fully electric and plug-in hybrids. Rather interestingly, not for the first time, the number of plug-in hybrid registrations has fallen compared to last year, further raising questions about whether people are skipping the technology. Read more. In similar SMMT news, the group revealed that electric van registrations have risen by 52.9% year-on-year. The numbers are still dwarfed by the number of diesel vans but it’s fast-rising. Read more.
ELECTRIC AVENUE: From a couple of weeks ago, the council of Westminster now has 42 streets where there are at least seven EV chargepoints. This news came as the council announced it was installing an additional 500 chargers by March 2023, taking its total to over 2,000. This will be significantly more than any other local area in the country. These damned Westminster elites, eh! Read more.
IONITY SCAMS: The ultra-rapid EV charging network Ionity, which has 18 sites in the UK, has warned customers that fraudsters may be placing QR codes on chargers in order to lead people to fake payment websites. Naturally, two routes to avoid such concerns are to use an app or contactless payments.
SUPER EUROPE: Speaking of rapid chargers, Tesla has announced its reached 10,000 Superchargers in Europe, spread over 30 countries. What’s more, 20% of them have been added within this year. They are still a force to be reckoned with in this space. I got this snippet via the EV Universe.
HYPER EUROPE: A company called Zerova last week unveiled what they claim is the world’s fastest EV charger, which will offer rates up to 480kW. This would fully charge a car in 10 minutes. But... as much as I love innovation, do we need this? Firstly, most cars on the road will never accept that 480kW rate, most barely takes above 100kW. Secondly, I dread to think how difficult it would be to physically get the level of power required for this to a site. Read more.
YOUR VIEWS: John Humphry of ex-TV presenting fame has written a column for YouGov asking for people’s views about whether range anxiety is putting people off EVs. From what I could tell, nobody has left any comments. Presumably, though, this means YouGov may be undertaking some new polling on the topic of EVs. See the blog here.
LACKING COUNCIL: Speaking of views, councillors in Newcastle seem to have quite a few about the city’s EV charging network. This past week, Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone accused North East authorities of a “serious policy failure” due to EV chargers being obsolete and unable to be maintained due to a lack of spare parts or funding. It comes as the council apparently failed to attract a single bid during a procurement exercise for a 15-year contract to maintain and expand the North East’s charging network – the council wants to boost chargers from 800 to 28,000. Perhaps this is a prime example where the Local EV Infrastructure scheme will be able to help. Though, one does wonder if leaving such a huge infrastructure challenge to councillors is going to work. I’m reminded of when politicians in Northern Ireland got ‘confused’ and so didn’t apply for EV funding. Read more about Newcastle here.
SAVE THE DATE (1): The next quarterly update of EV charging statistics will be on 26 October. The previous two quarters have all been on a downward trend, so hopefully, Q3 will be upwards!
SAVE THE DATE (2): The Financial Times Future of the Car conference is a long time away (8-10 May 2023) but I noticed they are looking for sponsors. From memory, sponsoring an FT event costs in the tens of thousands.
BAD LUCK: The US start-up Rivian has had to recall almost all their EV adventure vehicles (about 12,000) due to steering defects. This has sent their stock price right down. Rivian is backed by Amazon and earlier this year their stock price valued them at about $100 billion. They have been in talks with the UK government to build a factory in Somerset. Read more.
FREE OFFER: Gridserve, the EV charging company, has announced that its offering three months of free charging with every lease from its car leasing operation. In recent months, Gridserve has been making efforts to build up its car leasing operation and now offers test drives from its forecourts. Read more.
GOOD READ: Interesting analysis this morning on the BBC about the boom of EVs in China. Read more.
BIG PARK: A NatWest office in Edinburgh has installed some 264 chargers at its car park for staff. This makes it ones of the largest ‘charging parks’ in the UK. Workplace charging will be a key part of the recharging mix in years to come. Read more.
NEW PARTNER: Speaking of offers, Jaguar Land Rover has announced a new charging offer for customers of plug-in hybrids and fully electric models. It’s delivered this by partnering with Plugsurfing, a pan-European RFID card scheme with 300,000 chargers. JLR will offer customers various tariffs, starting with a Pay-As-You-Go package with no monthly fee. There will then be a Gold Tariff – priced at £4.26 inc. VAT per month – which provides fixed prices for charging, differing depending on the speed of the charger. The Platinum Tariff, priced at £8.50 per month including VAT, reduces the fixed rates, for drivers that are regularly charging away from home. Read more.
ELECTRIC LAKES: One story that struck me this past week was about a community ebike sharing scheme in a small Lake District village. According to MoveElectric, two e-bikes, named Reston and Craggy after local landmarks, have been made available for the 1600 or so residents and local businesses to hire. Residents can use the scheme with six-month or annual subscriptions, costing £25 and £50 respectively, or pay a £5 per hour occasional user fee. What a great idea and hopefully we’ll see plenty of this elsewhere. Read more.
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