Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In today's edition… I take a look at where Labour stand on EVs. Elsewhere… Arrival’s founder departs, London expands the ULEZ, and Google Maps shows where fast chargers are.
Next week will be a special report on reliability. Also, advance warning that my 20 December newsletter will be on the trends for 2023 - if you have any thoughts, do shoot them over. My contact details are below or simply reply to this email.
What does Labour think about EVs?
About 40 days ago Liz Truss resigned leaving behind a broken government. Rishi Sunak, who had repeatedly predicted Truss’ policies would fail, was overwhelmingly backed by MPs. Since then, a strange sort of normality has returned to Parliament as the Tories have tried to bounce back from their self-destruction.
While some in Westminster are optimistically suggesting Sunak could win the next election, this seems rather unlikely. The question for all of us is, therefore, when will a general election be called?
It’s widely accepted that Sunak (and Conservative Headquarters) will want to hold on, potentially all the way until 2024 – seeing if they can perhaps reclaim a poll lead. However, Sunak is facing increasing attacks on several fronts from rebellious Tory MPs (including Truss and Johnson). Such as on building wind turbines, housing targets, the migrant crisis, and not forgetting an Autumn Statement which was positively negative.
The Daily Telegraph’s Associate Editor wrote last night rather brutally that “rather than having a firm hand on the tiller, [Sunak] could quickly look like a captain trying desperately to keep his ship afloat as it is battered by storms from every direction.”
Though public affairs people say it a lot, now really is the time to be engaging and understanding Labour. While the party has many policy positions tied down, there is still plenty of opportunity to shape a future election manifesto. However, in the here and now for the EV sector, I’ve reviewed the views and statements of four central figures in the party: Kier Starmer, Rachel Reeves, Ed Miliband, and Louise Haigh.
Sir Kier Starmer, Leader of the Opposition
Starmer became leader of Labour during the pandemic, so much of his first year in office was muted. However, as the Tories have imploded his confidence has been boosted. And in one area, Starmer has started showing he’s got the edge on the Conservatives: growth. While it became the go-to word of Liz Truss – you may recall her ‘anti-growth coalition’ – Starmer’s slow-burning strategy to display competence and a robust view of how to achieve it has been getting noticed favourably. Under Corbyn, Labour’s trust amongst businesses was diabolically poor, but the party started rebuilding its ties with gusto with the appointment of Jonathan Reynolds as Shadow Business Secretary.
The continued support of the EV sector is a key plank of Starmer’s growth agenda, and it’s evident he sees it as a way to boost jobs. Only last week at the CBI Annual Conference, Starmer suggested that “electric car manufacturers are leaving Britain in droves” and companies like Britishvolt were failing because the government had given up on its industrial strategy. On social media, Starmer last year tweeted about Labour’s EV plan saying it would “deliver an electric vehicle revolution in every part of the country.”
Starmer doesn’t have a plug-in car yet, but he does have a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor
Much like Starmer, it seems clear that Reeves sees the EV sector as a driver of jobs and growth. At the Party conference this year she said: “Europe is powering ahead with electric battery factories, and we are stuck in the slow lane.” This punchy language was followed by a pledge that “the next Labour Government will create a National Wealth Fund, so that when we invest in new industries. In partnership with business, the British people will own a share of that wealth, and the taxpayer will get a return on that investment. Wealth flowing from jobs in electric battery factories, in the West Midlands, the North East, the North West, and the South West.”
There are no figures for this but given the state of manufacturers and gigafactories in the UK, this is potentially a costly pledge. Likewise, it doesn’t sound too dissimilar to what has been the case with enterprises like Britishvolt – where government funding is dependent on external investor funding/meeting deliverables. Reeves is no newbie to EV support, she has a long track record of supporting the industry and in her debut speech as Shadow Chancellor in 2021 said the UK should be “world leaders” in EV production. At last year’s party conference, Reeves committed £28 billion annually to invest in green technologies, such as gigafactories.
Reeves’ rhetoric on EVs is matched by personal experience. Back in October 2020 - long before many others started jumping into them - she bought a Kia e-Niro. She revealed in July it’s not always been easy as there “were moments I thought - why on earth have we done this?” She once had to abandon her car after it ran out of juice after a series of chargers not working. However, Reeves doesn’t “have those fears anymore.” As she says “the chargers are much faster and there’s loads more of them.”
Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of Climate Change and Net Zero
From leader to a spokesperson for Labour’s views on Net Zero, Miliband remains a prominent character in the party, and he’s been an active voice on EVs.
He previously said Labour agrees with the government timetabling on banning sales of internal combustion engines but believes accessibility needs to be opened up. Last year, Miliband suggested Labour would do this by offering interest-free loans for new and used EVs for those on low to middle incomes to remove the upfront cost barrier. This would work with households paying back the loan as they recoup the savings from the lower running costs of the EV – albeit, charging prices have risen a great deal since this policy was first shared.
Miliband has also floated a scrappage scheme, so people can trade in old cars. But also, that the roll-out of charging points would accelerate, targeting areas left out. Though this latter proclamation came before the government launched the Local EV Infrastructure Scheme. At a SMMT conference during Summer last year, Miliband also suggested that the government shouldn’t remove the plug-in car grant. At the same event, Labour promoted figures suggesting there needs to be around 150,000 public charge points operating across the country by 2025. To achieve this, “delivering charging points would be treated as a national infrastructure project,” according to Miliband.
His most recent mention of EVs on social media was this March when he tweeted about the slow charger rollout, saying: “Once again shows the contrast between the government rhetoric and the reality of climate delay.” At a more personal level, Miliband has leased a Renault Zoe EV though it’s not clear if that’s still the case.
Louise Haigh, Shadow Transport Secretary
Of the four figures, Haigh is probably the least well-known. Her political career started in 2015 when she became an MP in 2015 under Corybn – who she supported, albeit regretted, to be leader. She took on the Shadow Transport brief about a year ago and has made several interventions on EVs since then. In December last year, after the government announced a cut to the plug-in grant, Haigh reaffirmed her party’s position by saying “Labour would bring forward ambitious proposals to spark an electric vehicle revolution in every part of the country. By extending the option to buy an electric car to those on lower incomes and accelerating the rollout of charging points in regions that have been left out, we would ensure that everyone can benefit from the green transport revolution.”
More recently, in the last week alone, Haigh has asked the government six questions in Parliament relating to its EV charging plans. This includes disability standards, status of the future of transport regulatory review, the Transport Planning Practice Guidance, when the next LEVI funding will be, and the status of the Rapid Charging Fund (twice). Only a few days before this, Haigh published a statement suggesting the Chancellor’s announced EV road tax was “not the right thing to do in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”
Policy roadmap to 2030
Important to flag, this year Labour published a ‘Stronger Together’ report which is a ‘roadmap to develop key policies ahead of the next General Election’. One of the sections is ‘stronger green and digital future’, and it provides quite indicative ideas of where Labour’s present thinking may be heading. It suggested on EVs: “With a strategic steer from Government, our great automotive industry could be world-leading in making the shift to Electric Vehicles (EVs).”
The report added this could be achieved by providing certainty that “new gigafactories we need to produce batteries domestically can be rolled out over the coming decade; that EV charging points will be spread right across the country by 2030; and that EV ownership is affordable for everyone, including those on low and middle income.” Read the section here.
Summary of EV policies
There’s a lot to consume here, but a few policies have been regular amongst Labour’s top team so probably quite concrete. In any case, there are no negatives to be drawn. As I’ve been told plenty of times before, Labour is keen to engage on EVs and to go even further than the Conservatives. For me, the only caveat is what’s in the realm of possibility if we have no money – though that is for another day.
Labour’s EV policy pledges…
Providing an option to buy an electric car to those on lower incomes, potentially through an interest-free loan
Accelerating the rollout of charging points in regions without high density
A potential car scrappage scheme for those trading in ICE for EV
Creation of a National Wealth Fund to invest in new technologies, like gigafactories
A pledge that £28 billion will be allocated annually to invest in green technologies
No change in roll-out timetable – 2030 and 2035 remain key dates for ending ICE sales.
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DEPARTING EXEC: The founder of Arrival, Russian billionaire Denis Sverdlov, stepped down as CEO last week - he is being replaced by Chairman Peter Cuneo. This all comes after Arrival’s chaotic last few months. Read more.
NEW FUNCTION: I hadn’t seen this a couple of weeks ago, but Google Maps has released an update to better show where ‘fast chargers’ are located on its map. Google will use real-time information and the new filter will show chargers with speeds of 50kW and over. See more here.
NEW PARTNER: The EV charging app Moove, which provides access to over 6,600 chargepoints located across London, has partnered with Paua to develop a single-access EV charging solution in the UK dubbed “Moove Charge”. Read more.
BIGGER ZONE: Speaking of London, last week Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the Ultra-Low Emission Zone would be expanding to cover the whole of London. Shortly after the news, Khan also revealed at an Evening Standard event that 100 new ultra-rapid chargers will be built across the capital by the end of 2023. Read more.
STAND DOWN: Chris Skidmore MP, the one who has been leading the government’s Net Zero Review, announced last week that he will be stepping down as an MP at the next election. See his statement here.
SUPER FAST: The development of electric hypercars continues to be popular. Last week, the luxury Italian carmaker Pininfarina, released a video of its Battista EV accelerating to 0-62mph in a time of 1.86 seconds and 0-124mph in 4.79 seconds - a record. Video below.
BEST LIST: WhatCar magazine has rated 12 public charging networks from best to worst. This is based on a large survey of drivers and their own research. The worst rated was Charge Your Car, while the best was Gridserve. See the full list here.
FRESH APPROVAL: Plans have been approved to build what will become Europe's largest lithium hydroxide refinery on Teesside. The refinery will produce material for EV batteries. Read more.
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I get the impression Labour's EV policy is to complain but not suggest. The quotes are devoid of any specific commitments, which so far has been the story of Starmer's leadership.
There is much I suspect Labour and the Conservatives agree on, but unless they come out and say it, any government plan will be undermined by the civil service which alway seems to favour inaction.
British Volt was too little, far too late and with no technology. I feel the government would be better off spending the money courting CATL and Tesla.