Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name is Tom Riley.
A variety of news in today’s email. From new start-ups to established beasts, it’s amazing that even since January so much of the automotive world has shifted to electric.
I hope you are enjoying The Fast Charge, if you are please do share it or drop me an email at email@example.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.
In the news…
MISTAKEN IDENTITY: Volkswagen has accidentally revealed that it is changing its name in America to ‘Voltswagen’ to show its commitment to becoming pure electric. The news came out in a press release, dated April 29, which said: “The new name and branding symbolize the highly-charged forward momentum Voltswagen has put in motion, pursuing a goal of moving all people point-to-point with EVs.” This approach builds on that of other carmakers, such as General Motors and Kia, who are shedding their previous petrol associated brands completely. One assumes the automotive PR teams all received copies of Machiavelli’s The Prince for Christmas - as 2021 is starting to feel like the Year of the Long Charging Cables.
NEW FORECOURTS: BP Pulse has revealed new plans to roll out ultra-fast charging hubs across the UK. The hubs will host ultra-fast 300kW charge points plus retail and convenience facilities for the drivers while they wait for the cars to be juiced. The first of their hubs is due to open later this year. Read more.
SCOTLAND 4X4: A new start-up in Glasgow, named All Terrain All Electric (or ATAE for short), is producing an off-roader aimed at estate work and farm life. Established by Russ Peterson and Ross Anderson, ATAE aims to fill a gap in the market with its ‘Munro SUV’ for a “back-to-basics” 4x4 (pictured below). The designs take inspiration from the Land Rover Defender - one of the most iconic cars in Britain - and comes with 150 miles of range, towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes and locking diffs - plus other off-road trimmings. It will launch next year and will cost around £50,000. Co-Founder, Anderson, said: “We want to create a vehicle that you can get into with muddy boots, throw a bale of hay in the back of to feed the horses, then go out camping for the weekend.” I love that.
GREAT FIX: An American company that provides charging station operators on-demand maintenance has just received $2.75 million dollars of funding to expand. ChargerHelp!, co-founded by Kameale C. Terry, came up with the idea at a former EV firm when she realised: “When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on-site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical.” Despite this, most companies default to sending electrical contractors to go fix stations - which is a waste of time and money. Their solution connects problems to the right people for 24/7 fixing. Smart!
GREEN TAXIS: Uber riders in London can now request a driver with an electric vehicle. This change (named Uber Green) is part of the company’s mission to become a “fully zero-emission platform” by 2040. This is a great move if it persuades the thousands of cars in London to become cleaner. Only 1,600 Uber drivers in London have electric vehicles, out of a fleet of 45,000. I have previously argued that taxis and companies like Uber will be key in the electric shift - so this is nice news to read.
CHARGE MATE: There was an insightful story in The Guardian over the weekend about how the Australian hospitality sector is building EV charging to attract more visitors. The case study mentioned is about a winemaker in the countryside (is that the outback?) who has installed some slow chargers to attract new customers. Apparently, it is working and an installation firm from Melbourne claims they are getting a huge amount of business. The reason this is interesting is, the Australian government have been falling behind the world on EV growth - which has received much criticism. But, despite this, evidently, businesses are seeing the value in creating destination points. I suspect here in the UK it won’t be long until every AirBnB or hotel offers ‘free charging’ - which is good news for local electricians.
STATE OF PLAY: the used car website, CarGurus, has done some polling of 1,005 UK car owners about their views on electric vehicles. It seems, 1 in 5 are now keen to go electric in the next year. That’s quite a lot of EV optimism. The research completed by CarGurus - before the grant cut - covers all sorts of questions, including at what point fuel prices being increased would cause motorists to switch. 55% claimed if fuel hit £3 per litre they would change to an EV - that means 45% wouldn’t… which is quite a lot of resistance! However, perhaps most interesting was that 64% said more charging stations were critical to helping people buy an EV - and that isn’t as high as I expected - meanwhile 56% said easy access to battery replacement was key. That’s fascinating because, in all the EV reports you ever read, we focus totally on charging infrastructure and not much on battery replacement - perhaps our use of AA batteries over the years has built-in a hidden fear! Read more.
CHEAP UNDERCUT: The Chief Executive of American EV company, Lucid Motors, has said they will make their vehicles “progressively more affordable in progressively increasing numbers”. Peter Rawlinson, the CEO, believes the price at which most people will feel comfortable switching to electric cars is about £18,200. However, he admits there is a long way to go - the relatively new ‘Air’ vehicle produced by Lucid costs about £50,000.
MERCILESS: German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is on the cusp of revealing a flagship electric car. The new EQS is due to be unveiled on April 15 and set to challenge Porche, Audi and Tesla. It will come packed with 435 miles of range - coming from an apparent 100kWh battery - and be one of the most aerodynamic cars in the world, according to their press team. We haven’t yet seen images of the exterior; however, if the interior is anything to go by, I don’t think the buyers they’re aiming at will care much for its drag values or ability to drive far. The quilted seats, wood decking, vast touchscreen panel and jet engine for conditioners look like a style befitting Philip Green’s yacht - it’s certainly not ecclesiastical, more of a Knightsbridge palace.
By Tom Riley