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Labour goes big on EVs, while the Tories ignore them at conference
The latest news from the world of EVs
Good morning, I’m Tom Riley and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
The top story in today’s edition… What have both Labour and the Conservative Party said about EVs during the party conference season?
Plus, Arrival’s website goes offline, EVA England publishes an interactive tool, and ubitricity chargers will be rebranded under Shell colours.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do get in touch. My contact details are here or simply reply to this email.
In the blue corner weighing 13 years….
Background: We are currently in the middle of the political party conference season. Last week it was the Conservative’s meeting – which I attended up in Manchester – and this week’s it’s been Labour’s turn. Net zero and infrastructure have featured at both, and below is a summary of what it means for those of us in EV land.
Firstly… The Tory conference. Before it even started, the event was quickly mired in controversy around its transport plans, hinging on the rumours that HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester would be cancelled. Around the same time, the government published a ‘Plan for Drivers’ – which was a 30-point plan to tackle ‘over-zealous’ enforcement. There were six key points of note related to EVs, namely:
Reviewing grid connections process for EV charge points, with the aim to accelerate it.
Consulting on measures to speed up the approvals process for installation of charge points.
Providing dedicated, targeted support for schools to install charge points, using existing grants.
Widening eligibility of charge point grants to include cross-pavement solutions, to make EV ownership a more practical option for those without off-street parking.
Provide guidance on the use of safe cross-pavement solutions.
Consulting on the expansion of permitted development rights, making private charge point installation cheaper and easier.
So what? The announcement was sparse in detail, but the most interesting part of the above has got to be the expanding (and general support) for ‘cross-pavement’ solutions. With about a third of people not having access to a driveway, looser and more supportive rules for those looking to build cable gullies, for example, could be a real game changer. However, it is still hugely contentious amongst the public. Millions of people have watched my previous videos about this practice (like this one).
Good timing… This plan came on the back of the government finally publishing the ZEV mandate at the end of September – leaving carmakers three months to get ready for it kicking in from January. The new mandate confirmed that 80% of new cars would have to be electric by 2030, with slow increments to 2035 following Sunak’s recent reversal.
Alas… When it came to the Tory conference itself, EVs didn’t really get a look in. Compared to last year, where there were several fringe events on decarbonised transport, there was little on show this time. The only mentions of EVs were reserved for soundbites in a couple of speeches by the Chancellor, Transport Secretary, and the Trade Sec.
In summary… If you are interested in wider insights from the Tory conference, I have written a blog for Pagefield’s website on the five things we learned there. In short, though, I’d summarise the Tory conference in one word: Rail. All anyone spoke about was HS2. And, while this is an EV publication, in the ideal future we should be using our cars less – which means projects like high-speed rail are crucial.
Interestingly… Based on my analysis of government statistics, since 2010, the Conservatives have overseen 700 miles of motorway and ‘A’ roads being added (or made available) to the UK’s network. Meanwhile, over the same period, only 76 miles of mainline rail has been added. Is that the right balance?
And in the red corner…
Background: The Labour Party is presently hosting its conference in Liverpool. Unusually, their event is happening after the Conservative one which has all added to the air that Labour is now a government in waiting. There’s still a long way to go until an election, but on the strength of their conference so far, it seems they’re in full attack mode.
What’s happening? The line that the Shadow Cabinet keeps using is to ‘get Britain’s future back’. For the EV sector, that translates as the 2035 date being moved back forward to 2030 ‘within months’ of them taking power. This was first announced almost immediately in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s pushback – which at the time some senior industry figures suggested to me felt a bit kneejerk.
No matter… Yesterday at the conference the Shadow Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, revealed a 16-page ‘Plan for the Automotive Sector’ that goes into a lot more detail of their thinking for EVs. You can download that here. Or see the press release.
The headlines are… Labour wants to boost funding for EV sector growth. This will include about £1.5 billion (ish) of co-funding for new battery factories, and a plan to fully harness the £950 million Rapid Charging Fund – which DfT is seemingly frightened to go near. Meanwhile, Reynolds has also said he wants to cut red tape for installing chargers (similar to the Plan for Drivers above) but, he also wants to bring in ‘binding’ targets for rolling out charge points across regions that local authorities will own.
Fresh air: The whole plan I’m sure is a relief for energy and auto businesses. After the past few months of deep uncertainty and investor frustration, this approach is good. It seems businesses have been consulted on the plans too, with Dr Andy Palmer – an auto industry heavyweight – writing he was involved saying: “It was a pleasure working with @JReynoldsMP on parts of the automotive strategy launched at Labour Party Conference today… This strategy is a big step in the right direction.”
Obviously… Without us getting too carried away, there are a couple of bits I feel obligated to flag. Firstly, charger targets scare me, and they should scare us all. Do we want a scenario, such as that happened in the early days of EV charging, where you risk operators taking advantage of either loose rules or free cash (as presumably, the £400m local EV fund will still be around) to secure large numbers of locations? Secondly, yesterday Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves confirmed a “proper windfall tax” will be applied to energy giants. How does that policy tally with wanting these same companies to invest in masses of infrastructure?
Liverpool view… While I have been following the event closely from afar, I asked my Pagefield colleague, Juliet Patterson, who formerly advised Ed Miliband and Kier Starmer, what it’s like on the ground. “Conference is the busiest I’ve ever seen it with Shadow Ministers absolutely run off their feet darting between events. Party discipline is excellent with everyone smelling victory and decidedly on message to try and ensure they don’t mess it up,” she said, adding that there are a huge number of net zero and climate fringe events that have been “particularly well attended.”
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New constituency map shows EV charger breakdown ⚡
Background: Last week, data bringing together national EV sales, charge point numbers, and air quality was released by the EV Association for England through an interactive map – helpfully broken down by constituency. See here.
Headline: I’ve really enjoyed playing around with this map and evidently a great deal of work has gone into it (bravo!). If you haven’t already, certainly check it out. Thus far, the starkest fact I can see is that Westminster is the only place in the UK with more on-street chargers than registered EV drivers – meaning a plentiful choice for Westminster’s residents. Though, obviously that figure is a bit skewed given few people live there, but still…
What for? The purpose of this tool is not only to allow drivers to check their local area coverage but, additionally, I imagine it’s going to be particularly helpful as we head towards an election. EVA England CEO, James Court, said on the launch: “For people with access to their own charger, running an EV can be a no-brainer, the same is true for people like me who are well served by local infrastructure. But if we are going to hit our EV targets, we need to see a huge ramp-up in activity from local authorities and businesses to install more chargers.”
Arrival’s website goes offline 🖥️
Background: The future of British EV start-up Arrival has been in the balance for many months, with investors getting increasingly frustrated in online forums, the company’s patents seemingly being put up as debt collateral, and new turnaround advisors being appointed by the board.
The latest chapter in this saga… The Arrival website has been offline since yesterday evening undergoing ‘maintenance’.
Legit? Perhaps the website is genuinely undergoing maintenance and there is nothing to worry about… but the firm is well overdue to deliver financial results – which had been promised in early September – so one could rightfully be suspicious. The stock now trades at a smidge above $1 on the Nasdaq, its lowest point ever.
👉 If you haven’t read my long read of how Arrival went from a UK unicorn two years ago to this moment, do check it out!
🔌 7,000 lampposts to be rebranded with Shell label
Background: ubitrcitiy, the UK’s largest charging network with more than 7,000 locations (and owned wholly by Shell), announced recently that, to simplify the experience for drivers, all their chargers would be rebranded “physically and digitally to Shell Recharge”.
What does that mean? At a practical level it means, on lamppost chargers across the UK, you’ll soon start to see Shell-branded QR codes slowly replacing the green ubitricity logos. The reason for this change is so that it’s clearer to Shell’s customers where they are supporting them. One also imagines, thinking on the Reeves speech above, it may help better demonstrate their involvement in the energy transition too.
Not disappearing: As a result of this update, I’m told that ubitricity will still run and own all the charge points, they are only changing the branding that the end user will see when using an ubitricity charge point.
Quick EV hits…
💸 The Advanced Propulsion Centre yesterday revealed £89 million of funding has been awarded to 20 cutting-edge net zero tech projects. Read more.
🔋 In good news for carmakers on both sides of the channel, the EU is drawing up a plan to postpone tariffs on EV sales between the UK and EU for a year, according to the FT.
🚗 The latest statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed that new EV registrations increased by nearly 19% compared to last year. However, SMMT confirmed that these sales are still being driven by fleet purchases, with private registrations falling by -14.3% during September. Read more.
🔥 Despite publishing quite a lot of critical stories about EVs, The Sun newspaper has named the MG4 XPower its “Hot Hatch of the Year” at its annual motoring awards. Go figure.
Fast Charge in the news…
Firstly… I was invited onto TalkTV last week to discuss the story about Moto’s CEO suggesting he needed ‘marshalls’ to man his EV chargers – with the blame being laid on a lack of grid connections. It was fun, though not all viewers agreed with what I had to say.
Plus… I was also very pleased to be invited on the Transport for the South East’s podcast. We discussed EVs as well as my TikTok videos. You can listen to it on Spotify here.
By Tom Riley | Check my Linktree for LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok