Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name is Tom Riley.
In the email today, a lot of news has fallen out from the Financial Times Future of the Car summit. Elsewhere, some good news on EV growth. But, a worrying growth drop of charging points.
FYI, there will be no email on Tuesday 18 May. I’m off to the countryside.
Do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback, questions or comments.
In EV news…
GREEN GROWING: Data published by the Department for Transport yesterday revealed that 338,000 new alternatively fuelled cars were registered in Britain in 2020 compared with only 295,000 diesel cars. It hopefully marks the beginning of the end.
CHARGE SLOWING? On the flip side, DfT also revealed an analysis of charging points earlier this week. What it said was that, since 2015, the number of public charging points has grown by 43% per year, on average. Rapid charging points have increased at a much higher rate, with an average annual increase of almost 61%. However, the increase in total and rapid devices over the last 12 months was only 27% and 37% respectively. According to DfT, this is a “noticeable decrease in the annual growth in the preceding 12 months” where there were increases of 54% and 53%. The slowness has been attributed to coronavirus.
CRYING CRYPTO: To the horror of all his followers, Elon Musk and Tesla have withdrawn their acceptance of Bitcoin. In a statement, Musk said: “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.” And therefore they withdrew their offer of being able to buy a Tesla via Bitcoin. This comes shortly after Tesla sold a portion of the $1 billion stake in Bitcoin for a tidy $100 million profit. Some are very critical of Musk and suggesting he ‘pumped and dumped’ the cryptocurrency - it has now fallen in price by over 10%. Read more on the BBC.
HOWEVER… Musk is still looking at using Doge given it is a lot cleaner than Bitcoin.
MAY DAY: In a video for DriveTribe, James May revealed a potential snag with the Tesla Model S. It seems that, after it’s fully charged, the battery shuts off completely - as you would expect. However, when that happens, the battery also stops passing power to the smaller 12 volt battery which runs the electronics. That meant, after a while not using his Tesla, the battery went dead - so he couldn’t get in with his keys. James then had to dismantle his car to charge the 12v battery back up again. While amusing, I do wonder if James has missed a trick. In older models of the Model S, you could simply remove the front panel to access the 12v battery (see here). But maybe Tesla got rid of that.
SLIPPERY MEETING: According to an analysis by Politico of new government transparency data, Shell topped the list of fossil fuel giants getting ministerial facetime, making 13 appearances in the data. BP came in with 12, Total had 5 while the industry body Oil and Gas UK came up 4 times. On the other hand, the government’s own advisory Committee on Climate Change only met with minister’s 3 times.
SCALEXTRIC ROAD: Researchers at Cornell University in New York are pioneering a way to charge up EV’s as they drive along. The team have come with an electrified strip that can be embedded into roads and pass the charge to vehicles as they pass over it. This isn’t the first project to have a crack at this idea. Last year DfT invested some £3.4m into wireless charging in Nottingham meanwhile a £400,000 trial was launched in Coventry by Western Power Distribution (along with Toyota and Ofgem) to try and build their own Scalextric roads too. Read more about Cornell’s project.
VOLVO FLOAT: The Swedish carmaker Volvo is due to float on the stock market this year at a valuation of between £15-20 billion. That feels low given how many vehicles they shift (662,000 last year). The money being raised will go towards propelling the company to electrification. You may recall earlier this year Volvo pledged to go all-electric by 2030. Volvo also owns the growing premium EV brand Polestar.
BIG CHALLENGE: At the FT’s Future of the Car summit there were some interesting comments made. Not least by Rachel Maclean, minister for the future of transport, who suggested there is a “huge amount of work to do” to ensure the UK is ready for its EV future. She was referring to infrastructure which looks like it’ll be the biggest challenge for EV adoption. At the summit, Maclean said the government will need to ensure new buildings are developed with EV’s in mind and that “we need to make sure that when people are retrofitting blocks of flats, that the car parks have electric vehicle charging points.” The minister also said, when asked about possible taxation to replace lost revenues from fossil-fueled cars: “I cannot see that happening under this government.” A line to remember! Read a good summary on Autocar.
CLASS WIPEOUT: The CEO of Stellantis, which owns Peugeot and Vauxhall, told the FT’s Future of the Car summit that there could be “social consequences” from moving to EV’s rapidly. He was referring to rules around emissions which are forcing many manufacturers to switch to electric. “The brutality with which change is imposed on this industry is an understatement. It’s completely top-down and completely brutal,” he said. The CEO added that costs weren’t expected to get more affordable for years meaning EV’s could be pushed out of reach from the normal ‘middle classes’. I get why he might be annoyed - nobody likes being told what to do - but I imagine if we left automakers to it the switch would never happen until it was too late. Dry your eyes mate. Read more on Autocar.
VOLT SWAP: Renault is considering introducing a battery-swapping capability in its electric cars. This is very exciting as they are the largest European manufacturer to be looking into this technology. In the past, many carmakers have ruled swapping batteries out. Such as Tesla. However, over in China the company Nio - who is soon coming to Europe - have embraced it. They are able to fully charge cars to 100% in just a few minutes. Renault revealed its plan at the FT summit. On the idea, Renault CEO Luca de Meo, said: “I’ve asked our engineers to find the solution to go back to the original idea that was pioneered by Renault around 2010/11 and maybe we’ll see the thing coming on some of the cars. It’s not decided, but I see it as an interesting opportunity. We need to find a pragmatic solution, but from a business point of view, there’s a point separating the battery from the car.” Really cool and I hope this idea catches on.
GREEN MERC: Ola Källenius, Daimler’s CEO, the company behind Mercedes, told the FT’s car summit this week that they would be accelerating plans to go electric following the positive reception to its EVs. Ola said: “Do we intend to pick up speed? Yes, we do.” At the moment they had made a target of 2039 to phase out internal combustion engines, but this is now thought to be “the most conservative scenario” according to Daimler.
By Tom Riley