What Liz Truss means for the EV sector
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… a brief summary about Liz Truss as Prime Minister and what her government may mean for the EV sector.
Elsewhere…. BP Pulse loses 16% of its market share of chargers, and the Luftwaffe threaten a gigafactory in Coventry.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, please do drop me a line at email@example.com or simply reply to this email.
What Liz Truss means for the EV sector
Yesterday the Conservative leadership contest concluded with Liz Truss beating Rishi Sunak by 57% to 43% making her Prime Minister. Today, Truss will meet the Queen, start to form her Cabinet and deliver her first speech to the nation – as Boris Johnson disappears into newspaper columns galore.
Based on her acceptance speech, I think it’s safe to say we can expect Truss to use every day afforded to her until the next general election has to be called in 2024. Undoubtedly, as was indicated throughout the leadership campaign, the first 100 days of Truss’ premiership (and probably beyond that) are going to be dominated by the cost-of-living crisis.
Judging by media reports, it seems almost certain Truss plans to over-deliver support – as she does not want to start on the back foot on such a critical issue – by freezing energy bills. It’s a bold move with a rumoured £100bn price tag. However, despite us all having weeks to mull it over, it seems like the best of a bad bunch of options. But, once that announcement is out the way, the question next is what does a Truss premiership mean for electric vehicles?
I think there are a few ways we can break down this question. The first part is…
What Truss said during the contest
I believe a lot of people will view Truss, especially given some of her supporters, as being very right-wing and therefore unsupportive of green goals. I think the opposite is true.
While she’s made comments about supporting fracking, for example, she was the only candidate to pick out EVs as an innovative way for us to tackle climate change. She also signed the Conservative Environment Network’s pledge at the start of the campaign to roll out “electric vehicle charge points across the UK.”
When I spoke to EV campaigner, Quentin Willson, last month he commented saying “on balance, Liz Truss will be more interested in the concept of environmentalism as an abstract than Sunak will, because it's going to cost money, and he's going to worry about the short-term cost to the economy by net zero.”
Since first delving into Truss’ views in July, I’ve come to a similar conclusion. Ultimately, Truss has spent a decade at the top of politics – she has served in the cabinet’s of three Prime Ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson), including as Environment Secretary – so her ideology is evidently adaptability.
What will she deliver?
Now that she has won, Truss has repeatedly said she’ll continue to deliver on the mandate given to the Conservatives in 2019. In practice, she has promised to cut taxes and deregulate. Both of these could lend opportunities to the EV sector. Certainly, Truss has talked about cutting VAT in the immediate term, which might provide some respite for charging networks.
In the longer term, given the pressure on the exchequer and her political base, I suspect Truss may likely be very hands-off in her approach to the EV sector, preferring to leave the market to figure it out where possible. In some ways, this isn’t miles away from the EV strategy, for example, which centred heavily on the transition being ‘market-led’.
For larger projects, like gigafactories which will deliver future jobs in critical regions, I suspect Truss will continue to support where possible. Only this month, Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands noted Truss would back a local gigafactory. Though, whether that looks like direct financial assistance is another thing.
But Truss isn’t going to be the only influencing factor for the next two years. There could be several other established government voices that may make their arguments known on decarbonisation.
Who are the other voices?
One of the voices we may hear a lot from could be the next Business Secretary, who it’s rumoured will be Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Before you sigh at that prospect, let me lift your spirits slightly. While Mogg has definitely had sceptical opinions of climate change in the past, based on my research I do not think he is actively (or even inactively) against EVs. In fact, in his constituency last year, he previously supported a resident’s campaign to get charging points installed.
Elsewhere, in a Parliamentary debate, last year Mogg called EVs “remarkable”. The caveat to this is that Mogg used this description while explaining why taxpayer money couldn’t be used to subsidise the industry. He quipped “We managed to switch from the horse and cart to internal combustion without large government subsidies, so a little bit of government help is right but it can’t be excessive, the taxpayer can’t afford it.” (clip below)
Kerry McCarthy @KerryMPAnd in response to me asking why the Government has yet again slashed plug-in grants for the purchase of new EVs, (from £3000 to £2500, having cut from £3500 last year) the Mogg said that we didn't need financial incentives for people to swap horses and carts for cars...
Another important voice will be the next Transport Secretary, which is said by The Times to be Anne-Marie Trevelyan – the current Trade Secretary. If that is the case, then I believe the EV sector will have a strong ally in her.
Trevelyan has posted positively multiple times about companies working in this space. Take this visit to charging a site in 2021 where she commented: “Our vision is to have one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world. This means a network for current and prospective electric vehicle drivers that is affordable (which I know is a key concern!), reliable, accessible and secure.”
For me, it’s not necessarily the posts themselves, but the way they are written and published which is interesting. Her messages aren’t just press office written texts, they strike me as being personally supportive of the transition – she has often tweeted EV-related announcements from DfT, despite having never been a minister there. For a short time, she was a Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth at BEIS, so made several comments during that period, but then she tweeted articles like this (below) in 2019 while only a junior defence minister. Perhaps somewhat reassuring.
As well as ministers, it’s also worth remembering that many of the officials will be staying put. And as much as anyone likes to think otherwise, civil servants who spend years delivering a policy programme will seldom switch paths without a lengthy Whitehall battle.
A key person to watch is whether Hamish Phillips, presently Head of Auto at Downing Street and formerly of Arrival, leaves the government along with other No10 advisors.
Ultimately, we can all guess what might happen in the Truss administration. However, we won’t know for sure until she gets started. And perhaps that’s the main outtake from all this, the fact she (and her new cabinet) could be spending their first weeks consumed by the mountain of problems waiting for them rather than on anything else.
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In the last week…
FRESH DATA: Zap-Map has just published its most recent figures up to the end of August 2022, what they reveal is London’s market share has risen slightly to 32% – a total of 10,874 chargers. That’s a whopping 45% increase from the same time last year, when the figure lay at 7,489 in the capital. While other regions are growing their networks too, the pace of installations in London is something to behold.
FRESH POSITION: The chargepoint operator and manufacturer, Connected Kerb, has I believe just entered the top 10 largest networks in the UK. According to Zap-Map, the company now has 805 chargers placing them around P9 on their leaderboard – though the true position, as all the SureCharge network is still yet to be added, is P10. Given Connected Kerb wasn’t in the top 13 in April, that’s great growth. Congrats!
STALLED PROGRESS: Speaking of the leaderboard, BP Pulse’s market share of EV chargers has dropped by -16.5% since April this year. Back then, according to Zap-Map, BP Pulse was the third largest network operating 9.7% of all devices. However, as of the end of August, that has dropped to 8.1%.
CLEAN HEALTH: Last week the NHS announced that eight ambulance trusts would be trialling 21 zero-emission vehicles of various types, with six of these being related to mental health requirements. The EVs are part of a £2.1 million investment for the NHS to reach net zero by 2040. Read more.
RIGOROUS TEST: As confident as I am in EVs, even I would be a little nervous about driving nearly 1,000 miles on holiday with my entire family in tow relying on public chargers. But that’s exactly what motoring editor Jim Holder spent his Summer doing and it turned out all positive. You can read the 10 things he learned on his grand tour around Norfolk on Move Electric. His travels reinforce the need for good charger reliability, but additionally, that there are increasingly lots of choices which make it possible to bypass the bad operators. Also, I thought it was interesting that Jim suggested the ‘EV community spirit is fading’. This is something I notice increasingly at chargepoints – people just want to recharge, not necessarily join an owner’s club. Read more.
CLASSIC ELECTRIC: I attended two car shows last week. Firstly, Salon Privé on the grounds of Blenheim Palace. And then secondly at the weekend Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace. Rah, darling. What was great to see at both was several electric cars that didn’t look out of place. In Oxford, there were several hyper EVs. Meanwhile, in Hampton Court, there were several converted classic cars. I was pleased to chat there too with Everrati and Electrogenic about what they’re doing in this space. I have been posting videos about the cars I saw at these events on TikTok. We also saw the gorgeously evil-looking EV Mustang by Charge Cars – which my brother Charlie was very excited to see (pictured below).
CAR AWARDS: Last Wednesday it was the What Car? Electric Car Awards 2022. You can see all the winning EVs here – there are several. And I think that’s brilliant. In just two years there are now so many options and it’s increasing all the time.
BRIGHT STAR: It was a busy week for Polestar’s press teams as they revealed they’d not only sold out their new roadster – which doesn’t even get launched until 2026 – but that its sales have nearly doubled in the first half of 2022. Deliveries by Polestar rose almost 125% to about 21,200 cars in the first six months of the year, up from 9,510 a year earlier. Read more.
NEW CEO: Herbert Diess has now left VW and has been replaced by former Porsche CEO Oliver Blume. The signs look positive that he will continue driving forward the carmaker’s EV transition. Blume told an internal conference last week – on his first day – that “I am a fan of e-mobility and I stand by this path ... we will keep the current pace and, where possible, increase it.” Read more.
TICKED OFF: A funny story in CoventryLive. They have discovered that a planned gigafactory near the local airport – that would build batteries for EVs – has had its development disrupted because of unexploded WW2 bombs. It seems the local council has warned that people may be killed if the construction were to take place. During the war, the airport was a fighter station and was targeted by the Luftwaffe. Apparently, as many as 1 in 10 of all bombs dropped on the site didn’t explode. The plans for building the gigafactory are on hold until safety checks can take place.
GOOD LISTEN: Everyone will be familiar with The Economist and the informed content it publishes. They produce a weekly podcast called Money Talks and this week it’s on “Will the electric vehicle boom go bust?”. Perhaps a slightly pessimistic title but it’s an honest and insightful look at the macroeconomics of it all with Ford and Northvolt. Also, good news, while much of The Economist is often behind a paywall this podcast is free to listen to.
NEW NETWORK: The EG Group, a forecourt operator owned by the Issa brothers with some 1,889 sites, announced last week it’s going to build ultra-rapid chargers at many of its sites under a new ‘EV Point’ brand. Zuber Issa, co-CEO of EG Group said in their latest quarterly filings: “We are pleased to be trialling our own-branded ultra-fast electric vehicle chargers in the UK and plan to introduce them to additional locations by the end of this year. This investment further supplements our existing network of approximately 250 electric charging points across 98 sites in the UK and Ireland, Germany and France.” This follows about a year behind the Motor Fuel Group which now run the MFG EV Power network. Read more here. Or see Maz’s epic pics of the flagship site at Blackburn below.
OSPREY EXPANDS: Rapid charging network Osprey last week announced a new partnership with British Garden Centres that will see new hubs developed at 12 locations. The first such will be at a centre in Carmarthen in Wales which will boast eight ultra-rapid chargers. The size and scale of the hubs will depend on site and power availability, but I quite like this approach of blending destination charging with rapid charging. Read more.
By Tom Riley