Joint EV deal at COP26 looks set to falter

The latest news from the world of EVs

Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.

In today’s edition… the government’s COP26 EV deal looks set to falter, a surge in homes listing EV chargepoints on Rightmove, and could sodium replace lithium?

As ever, if you have any questions or thoughts, please do contact me at tomrileylondon@gmail.com.

In the last week…

COPPED IT: Today at COP26 there was due to be a large EV related announcement. According to reports, the government had been working in the background to get major auto manufacturers and governments to sign up to a pledge of: “work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero-emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets”. The Financial Times has suggested that the US, China and Germany are reluctant to sign it. Meanwhile, both VW and BMW have said they won’t sign it. BMW told the FT in their reasoning that “there remains considerable uncertainty about the development of global infrastructure to support a complete shift to zero-emission vehicles, with major disparities across markets.”

In my humble opinion, I think it would be great if at COP26 – given the surge of EVs in the last 12 months – to get countries like the US and China signed up to a pledge would be superb. However, I do understand the wariness. Governments change and infrastructure is still miles away. It’s also still so new. While many EV-evangelists will argue we are ready to max out now, we are not there yet. There are still so many new technologies that are yet to come ‘on stream’ that could change the game (for the better) yet. Such as the StoreDot super-fast battery, wireless charging and much more.

You’d think it might be better to create a policy around the behind-the-scenes infrastructure of EVs. For example, coal is the dominant power source for China’s electricity. And at the same time, it’s the biggest market for EVs. This is like burning your house because you find a spider. If I were the UK, I would have opted for a pledge for all countries to power their EVs with renewable energy by 2040 instead. Anyhow, just my suggestion. Read more.

CHEMICAL REACTION: Speaking of technological advances, there was an interesting article in Wired this week about a leading Chinese battery firm (CATL) that is investigating using sodium within its batteries. This is interesting because currently the most popular EV batteries (and batteries of any kind) are made up of lithium-based cells. These lithium cells also lean on rare materials such as nickel and cobalt. As all three of these elements will be required hugely over the next 20 years, the prices have already started to rocket. This has led to very high costs for new EVs. However, CATL wants to start using sodium, which is cheaper. Sodium gives out energy a lot faster than lithium – which anyone who did chemistry lessons at school can attest to – so CATL wants to use a mixture of lithium and sodium cells in battery packs to keep them balanced. This could reduce the overall costs by some 40%. Very interesting. You can read more here.

VOTE, ELON: This seems like a weekly occurrence but yet again Elon Musk has jumped into controversy by using a Twitter poll to determine whether to sell 10% of his stake in Tesla – an amount that is valued at $20bn. The reason being is that, in previous years, though Musk hasn’t taken a salary from Tesla, he has earned astronomical amounts through exercising large stock options based on Tesla’s growth. Much of this is untaxed, which has led to criticism. However, if he were to sell his 10% stake, it’s thought he’ll pay $4bn in tax. And it looks like he will, given the result of the poll was 58% in favour. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens, but I see some commentators have already suggested he’d probably planned to sell a large percentage anyway, so this is could just be smoke and mirrors. Read more.

FAKING IT: On Friday, Toyota finally released details of its long-awaited first pure electric car. It’s called the bZ4X (the ‘bZ’ stands for beyond zero) and it’s an SUV. Its looks certainly are not impressive. What Toyota seem to have done is take parts of other cars already on the market and ended up with an EV Frankenstein. The front is stolen from the Kia E-Niro, the lights and body from an EV6, the steering ‘yoke’ from the Tesla Model S. Even the name is trying too hard. It gets worse, though. Not only is most of the car seemingly stolen and a year late, but we also know this is the same company that’s been pushing hydrogen through various lobbying practices. This is why the best thing about this car is the opening of the press release that accompanied it…

“Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) is striving to resolve various issues to realize a sustainable society, with the aim of passing down this beautiful Earth, our home planet, to future generations.”

If I ever write anything so utterly meaningless, I want to be taken behind a shed and shot. Read the full release here.

CHIPPED OFF: According to TechCrunch, to counteract the ongoing chip shortage, BMW has started removing electronics from their models. For example, some of its infotainment systems are being shipped without touchscreen functionality. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this strategy being taken by automakers as a workaround. During the Summer at Fully Charged Live, I met a chap who told me something similar (I believe for Mercedes).

CABLE STREET: There was an interesting article in The Spectator yesterday by one of its lead columnists Ross Clark about the challenges of street parking – in the context of EV charging – for terraced house owners. In his column, he highlights the disparity between owning a driveway and not when it comes to home charging. It’s interesting that this debate is still mainstream and that commentators seem unconvinced by solutions like Connected Kerb and Ubitricity. However, Ross did miss a crucial point, terraced houses tend to be in the city, and do all city people need cars? Read the column here.

PLUGGED IN: Speaking of Connected Kerb, yesterday they revealed that they plan to install 190,000 on-street public chargers in the UK by 2030. Presently, the chargepoint firm has around 1,000 built but contracts for 10,000 more. So it’s a pretty bold ambition but, apparently, they expect to have deals for a further 30,000 during 2022. Read more.

SHARED INTEL: Elsewhere in the world of charging, Gridserve used COP26 to make an offer of help to other businesses and partners looking to address climate change. In essence, under their new Gridserve Partner Network, they will export knowledge and plans for their ‘Sun-To-Wheel Ecosystem’ – comprising solar and battery farms, EV charging infrastructure and other electric vehicle solutions. Gridserve believes this approach will help more businesses deploy new infrastructure at a much faster pace. Read more.

HOME, SWEET HOME: According to Rightmove, the number of UK homes listed for sale as having a chargepoint has increased by 541% in the last year (and increased by 50% since September). It comes as more people are requesting chargepoints for their new homes. While there is grant money, it certainly makes sense to buy a chargepoint now rather than wait if it’ll increase the value of your property. Read more.

DOWN UNDER: In Australia, where there’s been criticism in the past for the slow movement by the government to fully embrace EVs, later today a new raft of funding will seek to put 1.7 million EVs on the roads by 2030. The announcement will be made by the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, as part of a Future Fuels strategy worth $500m. Read more.

By Tom Riley