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Minister acknowledges 'disconnect' between EV sales and charger rollout
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello, I’m Tom Riley and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… BBC Panorama runs a report on electric cars, Uber goes green using AI, and the government’s EV minister acknowledges a ‘disconnect’ between sales and charger rollout.
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BBC Panorama takes a turn in an EV
Background: Last night BBC Panorama had an episode on EVs. It was titled ‘Electric Cars: Is it time to buy?’. It was led by Richard Bilton who took a VW ID Buzz across the country, speaking to different businesses and using various chargers on the way.
Summary: For a programme that is meant to be on point with its facts, the episode was largely driven by people’s emotional reactions to EVs. In many cases, the vox pops were people in the street saying they either liked it or disliked them. The rest of the time was spent with Bilton playing around in front of EV chargers.
Good points? Largely, I felt the episode was genuinely a bit dull – there wasn’t anything particularly new in it. The only interesting moment came when the CEO of Moto Hospitality, which is responsible for many motorway services, explained that getting chargers wasn’t a problem, but getting power was. It’s great that the issue of grid connections was raised so prominently, likewise, the complexity of planning plus permissions in this space – such as the use of public highways by people without home chargers.
Conclusion: After his experience, Bilton summarised that he was a ‘little bit’ converted to EVs and that they were “better for the planet”. However, he felt with the charging network there is a “long way to go”. You can watch the full episode on iPlayer here.
In response: Following the programme, a spokesperson for ChargeUK, the voice of the EV charging industry said: “Our members are investing billions in EV charging infrastructure in the UK and are achieving great results.” They added: “We are working closely with government and others to break down barriers to installing new infrastructure, including establishing grid connections, to ensure Britain is the best place in the world to drive and charge an EV.”
Uber unveils new AI to help drivers charge up
Background: Last Thursday, Uber hosted a global event in London to announce an array of new green policies, as well as an update on its plan to reduce emissions. I was there in person.
Summary: There was a huge number of announcements made by the company about its plan for a greener future, but a few standout business moves…
Food orders… The company announced that all Uber Eats deliveries globally will be emission free by 2040 – which will mean lots more e-mopeds or e-bikes for couriers.
Live guides… Drivers that go electric will benefit from smart in-app technology that will help drivers plan and find reliable chargers using AI. This will be based on previous trips – e.g. the app may say normally you don’t do many jobs between 1-2pm, so that’s a good time to stop – and also highlight the average cost to drivers if you were to charge. For example, the electricity bill, and also how many jobs you’d likely miss out on. The app will respond to your live position, trips, and battery.
Range control… Uber has developed ‘Batter-Aware Matching’, which will filter trips based on your car’s battery. For example, if you had fifty miles, you naturally won’t get a job going across the country. Drivers will do this by syncing their EVs to their phones.
Nicer rides… The company will soon roll out ‘eco routes’ where, rather than drivers taking the most direct trip, they will get a route that saves the most fuel and emissions.
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Latest EV news…
UNMATCHED GROWTH: In Parliament last week, when asked about the recent negative EV stories, such as the one published in The Times about sparse charging coverage around the country, Jesse Norman, the Transport Decarbonisation Minister, responded by acknowledging there was a disconnect between car sales and the rollout of chargers. He commented: “When EV purchases are growing rapidly, as they are in this country, there will be moments of disconnect between the amount of infrastructure and the number of vehicles. We have certainly seen a bit of that recently, and we will perhaps continue to see it for a number of months or more.” See Hansard.
NEW PAPER: Speaking of disjointed things, there was a publication by DEFRA last week titled “Unleashing Rural Opportunity”. It included details on how to boost EV charging. Much seemed to be recycled details of LEVI funding. Good old Whitehall recycling. Find it here.
MYTHS BUSTED: After Rowan Atkinson’s column in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago saying he was ‘duped’ by EVs, the newspaper seems to have seriously rowed back. Last week, they published a full ‘fact check’ piece written by Simon Evans of Carbon Brief. See it here. Elsewhere, the Sunday Times wrote their own take on Atkinson’s piece, and even they concluded while the tech isn’t perfect, EVs are the way to go. See that here (paywall).
SPECIAL REPORT: Talking of the Sunday Times, in the magazine this weekend there was an utterly brilliant in-depth report about lithium mining. It was written by Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, but someone who has super knowledge of this area. For the piece, he visited South America, suggesting in the future it may become like how we view Saudi Arabia now – due to it having such a big supply of lithium. Read here (paywall).
BATTERY SWAP: Rolls-Royce is considering swapping from battery configurations to hydrogen once the technology is mature enough. Speaking to Autocar during the launch of the Spectre, the carmaker’s first EV, the CEO said: “I would say so when the time is right for us, and when the technology is so much advanced, that it is definitely something we would pursue as Rolls-Royce. Why not? We might exit batteries, and we might enter into fuel cells.” Read more.
IMPORTANT DATE: It's Clean Air Day this Thursday 15 June. An important time to remember that electrification is first and foremost about reducing the impact of pollution on people’s health. Plenty of resources for you to use here.
INCOMING STATS: This a less important date, but certainly interesting for EV nerds like me. The next set of quarterly charging network statistics will be out on 26 July.
BIG FIGURES: Talking of stats, according to Zap-Map, last month there were 1,628 devices installed in the UK. That’s already more than half the total for the entire last quarter – where there were 3,000 chargers installed across the UK. Huge.
LARGE MARKET: On the flip side to public charging, Paua, the EV charging card for businesses, included a really fascinating bit of analysis in a newsletter yesterday. Apparently, there are now 66 companies manufacturing EV chargers for the UK – producing some 528 unique models. Getting busy!
NEW MONEY: Fastned, the rapid charging network, announced yesterday that it’s raised almost £19 million to expand its network across Europe. Learn more.
GOOD DATA: At last week’s EV Infrastructure Summit in the city, The AA’s president revealed a huge drop in the number of call-outs to electric cars that have run out of charge – a 70% drop. He suggested this is a “clear sign that range, infrastructure, and education are improving.” Read more.
TOLD OFF: The energy giant Shell last week had an advertising campaign banned for ‘greenwashing’. It came after Shell ran adverts about its record on green policies, including EVs, as well as across the wider UK. However, campaigners said they were misleading. The Advertising Standards Agency agreed and ruled against Shell saying: “We understood that large-scale oil and gas investment and extraction comprised the vast majority of the company’s business model in 2022 and would continue to do so in the near future.”. Shell naturally disagreed saying “people are already well aware” of Shell’s business so it’s adverts about it’s investments into zero-carbon sectors were useful. Read more (possible paywall)
TRIAL VOLTS: Waitrose in St Katharine Docks is currently testing out wireless EV charging for seven of its vans. And, apparently, it’s all going spiffingly well. Read more.
NEW PLEDGE: Speaking of charging in London, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has unveiled plans to have a further 80 rapid points across the city. This will come from Transport for London releasing additional land. The contract will be split between two firms. Read more.
PUSH BACK: Carmakers in Europe have said they will lose £4 billion and cut production by half a million EVs if rules of origin tariffs are not delayed to 2027. Read more (paywall).
TRADE ARRANGEMENT: Talking of tariffs, last week the UK and US signed the Atlantic Declaration – a new economic partnership that will seek to build resilient, diversified, and secure supply chains. As part of this plan, minerals for EVs are a feature. The deal should mean lithium mined or processed in the UK can be put into US vehicles – and benefit from a $7,500 tax credit in the US. However, there may be some dispute over this, as the US seems keen for everything to be made in North America, rather than giving grants for the UK to build EVs or materials for the US market on our soil. Read more (paywall)
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