Big EV knowledge gap between men and women, reveals government study
The latest news from Britain's EV sector
Hello, I’m Tom Riley, and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… A newly published government study reveals attitudes towards EVs, the start-up Arrival looks set to appoint EY as administrators, and did Britishvolt’s new owners defraud HMRC?
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, do get in touch via my contact details below or reply to this email.
Big EV knowledge gap between men and women, reveals government study
Background: Last week the Department for Transport published the results of its latest National Travel Attitudes Study. It’s a survey of 2,000+ individuals about people’s views on various transport topics. In the latest one, people were asked about their views on EVs.
High interest: Of those surveyed in Autumn 2023, a huge 49% of those planning to buy a new car said they were thinking of getting an ultra-low emission vehicle. To note, that doesn’t mean only fully electric but it also includes plug-in hybrids. Not perfect though is a strong result indicating people’s changing attitudes, no doubt spurred by various clean air zones.
Low education: It was found that many people (45%), especially those from lower-income households, had lower to no knowledge of electric cars. However, the real surprise was that the majority of women (56%) claimed to have a no to low knowledge about EVs, compared to only 32% of men. This is a large gap with only 28% of women saying they have good or complete knowledge, versus 47% of men. This is a topic many organisations, such as She’s Electric, are trying to tackle in the UK.
Media image… Perhaps underlining the impact of negative press stories, some 27% of all respondents agree that most public chargers had long queues, which was up from the 18% who said that most chargers had long queues in 2022. Though, positively, 26% disagreed there were long queues in the 2023 survey.
Finally… When asked if most public chargers were not accessible to drivers with disabilities, 24% of people agreed versus 16% who disagreed. The number of people who agreed was up 4% compared to 2022. Most people (55%) were on the fence with 4% saying they didn’t know. Check out the full results of this survey here.
Did Britishvolt’s new owner commit tax fraud in the UK?
Background: You may recall that Britishvolt, the battery developer based in Northumberland, entered administration about a year ago. On the back of that, Aussie businessman David Collard swooped in to buy the firm – as he already owned a company called Recharge Industries, which was planning to build a battery facility in Australia. Recap details here.
However… It became evident quickly that Collard perhaps didn’t have the right experience to take on Britishvolt. And, more importantly, didn’t have the money – having struggled to even pay an initial £8.6m cost. Later in the year, Collard struggled to find additional money to both pay for the land on which Britishvolt’s factory could be built in Blyth (£9.7m), and a final instalment fee of £2.1m to the company’s administrator EY.
And then… Recharge was raided by Australian tax authorities. In a November FT story, post raid, it was suggested that amidst all the financial struggles at Recharge, Collard used tax filings to reclaim VAT to provide short-term relief to its accounting books - which is perfectly legal
But… Earlier this month, a blog in Australia (Open Politics) managed to obtain a huge number of private messages and insider details about Collard’s VAT returns. What the revelations suggest is that Collard and his team issued invoices with inflated costs to a UK subsidiary so that it could boost VAT refunds out of HMRC. Allegedly, this practice was used to try and extract up to £7m from UK taxpayers, according to Open Politics, so Collard could proceed with running Britishvolt.
What now? It’s not clear if this is why Recharge was raided last year, though the UK and Australian authorities do work closely together in the ‘J5’ alliance to tackle tax fraud. Dan Neidle, founder of Tax Policy Associates, told Open Politics: “If Scale Facilitation did falsify an invoice to obtain a tax or VAT benefit then that looks like tax fraud - a criminal offence. HMRC should investigate.” Meanwhile, Collard has denied any issues with the VAT returns. However, in any case problems remain, as on 30 December 2023, EY extended the period of Britishvolt’s administration according to a filing on Companies House. This suggests the saga will continue to the detriment of the UK battery sector.
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Top EV news…
💰 Over the weekend there has been wide news that Labour is planning to scrap its promised £28bn pledge to invest in the green sector. A source said the figure had become an “albatross”, meanwhile a party spokesperson branded the story “complete nonsense”. I can totally understand why they’ve done this – Labour has a bad public rep on spending and the Tories have already started attacking it. However, flip-flopping is bad for business, likewise, how does this tally with Labour’s mission to ‘make Britain a clean energy superpower’? You can’t do that without a chunk of change. Read more.
🗣️ Speaking of Labour, The Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh, has appointed Stephen Hardwick as her new political adviser. Stephen worked with Labour in the Blair/Brown days before taking on various PR roles, including in the Civil Service. In fact, during my early comms career at HMRC, he was our director. It’s good Labour are getting some experienced people.
💲 Last week Gridserve officially unveiled its new hub near Gatwick including a £1bn plan to deploy 1,000 new chargers. Now, of the many posts I saw about it, one that caught my eye was a video by EV influencer Roger Atkins with Gridserve CEO Toddington Harper. Within it, Atkins takes the opportunity to ask Harper why, after the energy crisis, the costs for charging have not come down. Harper, I expect media trained, ignored the question by saying: “I think what you will have probably noticed is what has gone up is the amount of investment that we have put into EV charging infrastructure.” As a reminder, Gridserve’s rapid chargers cost 79p per kWh - though you do get great facilities.
😵 Is CHAdeMO dead? Readers may recall my analysis last year that suggested an increasing number of new charger installs were ignoring the connector. Well, for those few cars that use it (E.g. Nissan Leaf) there is now an adapter coming to market for CCS connectors. See the video here.
📉 After getting worldwide headlines for being the no.1 EV maker, has BYD peaked? The FT last week shared a column asking that after its share price has continued to reduce over the past year – down by 34% since 30 Jan 2023. The FT suggests the price is down due to increasing competition, but is not reflective of the advantages BYD could have in the future when long range cars are not needed as much. Read more (paywall).
🚘 New cars in the UK and EU have grown 1cm wider every 2 years, according to new research by Transport and Environment. I found this research interesting because most new EVs hitting to market are still SUVs – as they carry bigger batteries and ranges. Yet YouGov polling suggests there are twice as many negative views about SUV’s to positive. Read more.
🚲 Speaking of big EVs… It’s often said, one of the best EVs you can buy is an ebike. Naturally, they don’t work for everyone – not least because of location, cost, and theft risk – but where they can work, they often do (smug face… I have clocked 350 ebike miles in London). Anyway, this is the view of columnist Simon Kuper last week. Read the column (paywall).
⛏️ Not happy with the potential returns from a booming green revolution, global mining companies are already allegedly looking at other options to strike gold. Read more (paywall).
⛽ The Motor Fuel Group is eyeing up a £2.5bn deal for Morrison’s 340 petrol fuel stations, and it’s suggested many of their sites will be lined up to join MFG EV Power if the deal passes. Read more.
🌳 Pod Point has installed new chargers at three locations in the Peak District National Park. They are funded by BMW and will improve access to visitors. Read more.
👩⚕️ The charging network Zest has been chosen as a supplier for the NHS, meaning we can expect to see a growing number of chargers at the many NHS car parks in the future. Read more.
🔌 And more good network news as Be.EV launched the first of 20 charger locations in Stockport, near Greater Manchester. When complete, there will be 100 bays available. Learn more.
🚚 The EV start-up Arrival is reportedly in talks with EY to act as an administrator if the company cannot get rescue funding. The news comes after many months of activity at Arrival to secure its future as coffers have run empty. On the news, the share price hit its lowest point ever – dropping well below $1, now very much a penny stock. The firm continues not to communicate properly with the outside world. Sad. If you want to know how Arrival got to this point, do check out my long read on their rise and fall here.
😠 The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints against Kia and Mercedes for ads that promoted maximum range figures for new EVs - rather than the actual range drivers might reasonably expect. Read more.
🚨 In Belfast, where the local ambulance service has adopted rapid response EVs, they have found their chargers blocked by employee’s personal cars – meaning they’ve had to issue a note to staff restricting them for official use, after issues where the rapid response cars couldn’t use them. Read more.
🛢️ New analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found that EVs will provide greater energy security than granting the new North Sea oil licences would. Read more.
⚔️ Carmakers risk a “bloodbath” by cutting EV prices against each other, the CEO of Stellantis has warned. His comments come a couple of days before Tesla’s latest financial results (out Wednesday) are expected to show a challenging picture following a year of price cuts and intensifying competition.
💷 Speaking of pricing, in Auto Trader’s latest edition of its Road to 2035, the marketplace suggests drivers will benefit from the price war, particularly with Chinese cars coming to the UK. On China, Auto Trader had some good insights. Firstly, the new EV brands (BYD, Nio, GWM) are totally unknown (5% recognise) compared to longtime brands like Ford (80%). But, secondly, that can change quickly – as searches for BYD cars trebled on the back of them beating Tesla earlier this month. And, finally, it seems they have margins to cut, as presently UK consumers are paying more than double for Chinese models than list prices at home. E.g. BYD Dolphin is on sale for £25,000 here, but it’s £13,000 in China. See a summary, or read the report.
🤝 The Association of Fleet Professionals has set up a committee to explore ways van fleets can share chargers. It comes as a survey revealed 58% of fleets would consider sharing their depots. More details here, and also a heads up that this idea of ‘sharing’ is something I’ve earmarked for a longer feature. Get in touch with any thoughts.
💼 Finally, if there is something you want to ask the Chancellor for at the Spring Budget in March, for example ‘why not make VAT on public charging aligned with those at home’, you have until 5pm on Wednesday to submit to the Treasury. Link here.
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