Government's 'iconic' EV charger abandoned
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
As there are quite a few new subscribers, here’s what to expect from this weekly newsletter. 1) The latest news from the EV world with a UK focus. 2) Occasional interviews. 3) Regular features and analysis. 4) Many, many opinions.
In today’s edition… a fire, betrayal, and looting… and that’s just a story about Arrival. Elsewhere, the iconic charger project is abandoned, taxes are inbound, and a 23% increase in EVs.
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In the last week…
NETWORK RANK: Speaking of rating charging networks, Zap-Map last week revealed the results of its own survey on each. They asked 4,300 drivers to rate their satisfaction with each charging network. Rather on point, Zap-Map found Fastned and Motor Fuel Group as the highest-ranking networks – both of these topped my list too. It’s like old folks say, if you look after reliability, the ratings will look after themselves. Read more.
(NOT SO) GREAT SCOT: On the topic of reliability, it’s worth flagging this BBC report from last week that suggested one in four Scottish EV chargers were faulty. See it here.
NOT SO ICONIC: Do you remember the EV charger unveiled last year at COP26 that would become as ‘iconic’ as the black cab or red phone box? Well, I submitted a freedom of information request to the Department for Transport recently to ask what was happening with it, and the government responded by saying “the concept is not intended for manufacture or deployment.” According to the FOI response, the chargepoint, which was designed by the Royal College of Art and PA Consulting for a ‘UK-wide rollout’, was nothing more than a project to “generate excitement” and, thus, probably won’t ever see the light of day. You can read more about this discovery (and a quote from me) in The Guardian.
EV TAXES: As was first reported in the Sunday Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, the Financial Times now says in the Autumn Statement, next Thursday, it is all but certain the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will announce EVs will be subject to road tax from about 2025-26. This is a classic Treasury ‘Budget trail’ story – two of the reporters on the FT story are senior lobby journalists – so it feels very likely to happen. The announcement of the tax comes as the UK exchequer faces the threat of diminishing Vehicle Excise Duty as more people jump into EVs. Various backbench MPs have previously warned this sort of direction of policy travel would be needed. No firm rates/amounts are mentioned, but the FT report noted most petrol owners currently pay £165 per year. You can read the FT report here, or why not email me your views on this?
NEW DATA: According to the latest car figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), there were just shy of 20,000 fully electric cars registered in October – that’s a 23% increase compared to last October. Although, its market share compared to all fuel types was slightly lower (14.8%) than last year (15.2%). In its latest update, SMMT said the government was unlikely to reach its ambition of 300,000 by 2030. As a reminder, see my chart that reveals the scale of what’s needed to meet the 300k target. Check out SMMT’s release here.
BUST VOLT: It’s been an awful few weeks for gigafactory firm Britishvolt. The site near Blyth in Northumberland had promised to be a game-changer for Britain’s EV supply chain and to create 3,000 jobs. But it’s now been given five weeks to live by Glencore, one of its main backers. In that time, Britishvolt will need to find a new buyer. This is a challenge the investment bank Lazard has been set, according to The Times. Apparently, they are trying to “woo” American private equity firms, as well as Chinese and Korean battery companies. Not so British.
GREEN VOLT: Meanwhile, in lighter news, Green Lithium, which is backed by the commodities bemouth Trafigura, has announced it is going to build a £600m refinery on Teeside. The refinery will provide battery-grade materials for us in EVs, consumer, and renewable technology. Business Secretary Grant Shapps was on-site yesterday to mark the news. Read more.
THE DEPARTED: Speaking of British EV companies, the van firm Arrival has also not been having a great time recently either. A lengthy report published in the Financial Times by Peter Campbell on Saturday revealed morale is at “rock bottom”, it started a side project to make an electric jet, and one of its vans burst into flames in front of their UPS customer. Yikes. Only two weeks ago, the firm announced jobs cuts in the UK as it aimed to focus more on the US market. Since then, the company appears to have lost control of staff who are “looting” tools and leaking commercial information. The story is totally wild, including my favourite part that after the FT approached Arrival with a detailed list of questions, such as whether its first van was built by hand, the founder and chief executive Denis Sverdlov sent an internal message accusing anyone of leaking information of “betrayal” – which was subsequently leaked. Read more on the FT. Or read the Mail’s copy and paste.
GOOD INTERVIEW: Interesting interview with Dave Watson who founded chargepoint manufacturer Ohme in Move Electric. He makes a very prudent point that can’t be said enough, “the incentives to build more onshore wind, solar have never been greater.” And that the payback is “no longer over decades but in a couple of years”. Here, here.
CARNETTO: I saw this image on the UK’s EV Owners Club Facebook page – talk about getting ICEd at an EV charger!
WEIRD CAR: In the EV transition Citroen are certainly making a name for themselves as the ‘different’ carmaker. First we’ve had the AMI - that tiny city runabout with a max speed of 28 mph - and now there’s the OLI. Electrifying.com got an exclusive first drive of the new French pick-up which looks bonkers. It’s literally made out of carboard!
CLIMATE CONF: As you may have noticed, at the moment it is COP27 in Egypt. I’ve not seen any outcomes there relating to transport, but I would just note one positive thing – PM Rishi Sunak attended. Originally, he’d planned to give it a miss, though after coming under pressure decided to go along – meaning environmental issues are still prominent and influential. Excellent, Smithers.
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There is a pattern to the unreliable chargers and networks which I suspect reflects the change in EV ownership. Those who spend most on charging are business users travelling long distances in new EVs, and they will only consider using 150kW+ chargers, partly because they have the range to reach them and partly because bigger batteries take ages to charge on slower chargers.
This means the older chargers don't bring in much revenue, and hence aren't worth maintaining. This also fits with the sites where all the CCS chargers work but half the ChaDemo ones are broken because those generate the least income. In the case of a busy rapid charger, the ChaDemo actually takes away revenue because fewer cars can charge within a given time window.