Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… the UK has a record quarter for EV charger activations, but with growing numbers of EVs on the road, the pressure is on for public devices.
Elsewhere below… the UK and EU are talking about battery materials at an official level, as carmakers worry about incoming rules of origin changes. And, apparently, EVs are now going to collapse bridges as well as car parks *eye roll*.
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.
Biggest quarter for EV charging in the UK
Summary: Last Thursday the government published its latest quarterly statistics for EV chargers in the UK – which goes up to the end of March 2023. The headline figure is that, as previously estimated, the nation now officially has more than 40,000 devices – or 40,150 to be precise. Of this total, some 7,647 are rapid chargers. See here.
Breakdown… Compared to the same time last year, the number of chargers in the UK has grown by 33%, or about 10,000 devices, year-on-year. For rapid chargers, year-on-year there has been a 39% increase – with more than 2,153 being added.
Total jump… Last quarter represented the record largest number of activations compared to any quarter before it. Some 3,095 chargers were added, compared to the previous high of 2,626 in Q3 last year. This is shown in the graph below.
Rapid high… As well as a record for all speeds of chargers, last quarter was big for rapids too, with 760 coming online – the previous highest quarterly figure was 492. See graph below.
However… while the latest figures represent a huge milestone, when you compare it to the pace of installations against registrations of electric cars, the data can look a bit worrying. According to my analysis, there are currently 18 EVs for each public charger in the UK. For faster devices, we’re now at 97 electric cars per rapid charger. That’s a lot of pressure.
Comparison… As the graph above and below shows, as tens of thousands of people continue to jump into EVs each quarter, the gap between the total amount of public chargers and cars on the road is growing wider. In Q1 last year, there were 15 EVs for each charger. If you look back two years, the number of EVs for each public device has nearly doubled.
*data in the above charts is from the Department for Transport plus the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
But… While there are some three-quarters of a million EVs in the UK, and that lined up to 40,000 or so chargers seems concerning, we need to though remember that many have access to a home charger. And others will also use workplace charging. It’s thought that there are almost ten times more home devices than public ones.
Another consideration… is location and speed. Chargers are not installed equally – and shouldn’t be either. They naturally should be in areas of high demand – both because of local policies and consumer purchases. And, also, to serve different types of drivers. For example, in urban locations where few people have driveways, we’d naturally want to see bulk installations of on-street chargers which tend to be slower. But along main roads or in tourist hot spots, we may be looking more to rapid hubs and destination locations – though these will likely be fewer in number.
Thankfully… the government’s data has started tracking these factors since November last year. As of the latest quarter, there are 19,044 destination public chargers – an increase of 723 (3.9%) compared to Q4. Moreover, at the last count, there are 13,571 on-street chargers – which has increased by 1,575 (13%) – compared to the previous quarter. The devil is in the details.
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Latest EV news…
BIG EVENT: This week it’s the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit in London. There are some 100 speakers, many of which are the premier league leaders from the automotive world. So be prepared for numerous EV-related stories this week – some will be insightful, and some will be all bluster. You can probably still register to view it online (though it’s quite spenny). One theme I suspect there to be from manufacturers is an apparent ‘price war’ – which the FT wrote a long feature on over the weekend. Read here (paywall).
TRASH TALK: Speaking of the FT’s event, in a pre-recorded interview, the CEO of Bentley has said the UK’s failure to attract EV start-ups or large battery maker’s was “concerning”. He commented: “It’s surprising, if not a bit concerning that no [electric vehicle] manufacturer or battery manufacturer has chosen the UK over any other location as an investment destination.” And also that “no one has chosen so far to put any strategic investment in green mobility into the UK beyond the incumbents.” Read more (paywall).
PRESSURE ON: Now, I do believe Bentley’s CEO is being a bit liberal with reality, as the UK has had a lot of investment and start-ups, however, warnings on battery supply chains are potentially going to be a theme from carmakers at the FT summit. Why? Well, according to an insightful POLITICO piece last week, officials in Britain and the EU are talking about the ‘rules of origin’ on battery requirements in Europe. At the moment, 70% of EV components can come from outside Europe (UK or EU) – under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement – however, on 1 January 2024, that drops to 40%. Many carmakers do not believe this is achievable. The UK’s Trade Secretary has raised this with the EU. One suspects, with POLITICO reporting that there are some official talks happening, carmakers will want to keep the heat on. Read more.
EVIDENCE SESH: Speaking of battery supply, later today in Parliament, there is oral evidence being given on battery manufacturing by several sector leaders as part of an inquiry by the Business and Trade Committee. Details here. I’m going to swing by.
INCREASING PACE: According to the research group, New AutoMotive, sales of new EV’s grew 60% in April compared to the same period last year. SMMT’s latest car data also supported this positive turn for EVs, with battery electric cars taking 15% of the market share in April – and were the second most popular fuel type last month. However, while sales did boost, SMMT did also use their latest update to tone down their EV outlook (aka, what market share they think EVs will have in 2023) from 19.7% to 18.4%.
NEW PIVOT: Very interesting news from Croatia as Rimac, the electric supercar brand, last week announced it was entering the energy storage market with ‘Rimac Energy’. Their battery systems will utilise the tech from their EV supercar and be available in earnest for commercial businesses in Europe from 2025. Read more.
BLACK CAB: City AM have spoken to taxi firms, drivers, and their representatives about the state of EV charging in London. In short, while the capital has more than a third of all the UK’s devices, the feeling is the availability and charger locations for taxis (and other commercial drivers) are poor. Read more.
GREEN CAB: Speaking of cabbies, last week the London Electric Vehicle Company, who make the electric black taxi, alongside its parent company Geely, revealed its new EV platform which will help the company expand its vehicle offers – which at the moment is its popular taxi and van offer. Read more.
CLASSIC CAR: A new EV retrofitter, Inverted, has revealed it’s turning the classic Range Rover electric. From the images, it looks gorgeous, particularly inside which has Harris Tweed and Scottish leather. The battery is 80kWh with a range of about 200 miles. Prices start at £225k. Check it out.
STORY TOO FAR: First they said the car parks would collapse under the weight of electric cars, and now over the weekend I read that EVs will also forsake our nation’s bridges! Makes one wonder what will come next – my guess is on potholes. Read more (paywall).
ODD COLUMN: In true Guardian columnist irony, professor John Naughton, who is a ‘proud owner’ of an EV, has written about where all the minerals in his battery come from, such as the DRC, and how awful it all is – without offering a single solution. How helpful. Read here.
FREE CHARGE: According to Zap Map, the number of chargers with a free tariff has dropped about 40% compared to last year. As of April this year, there were 3,568 free chargers available, compared to 5,715 in 2022. Naturally, much of the change relates to the energy crisis and also the maturing of the EV market. Read more.
FREE PARKING: Speaking of free things, Giles Coren, the Times contrarian columnist who has gone from supporter to critic of EVs, smugly wrote in the paper today that he’s using a parking space set for EVs – though without a charger – as it’s free to use. Despite his digs at electric, Giles told me in January he was going to buy a smaller used EV as a runabout. Read column.
BAD FEATURE: There was a story in The Times over the weekend about how someone’s BMW i3 set on fire and destroyed eight shops. The story makes clear part way down that there are more ICE fires than electric. Read more, if inclined (paywall).
BIKE BLAZE: Talking of fires, though, new figures obtained by The Guardian found that fires from e-bikes and e-scooters injured at least 190 people in the UK since 2020 – with eight being killed. Read the story here where The Guardian has a lot more stats and detail on this. As a reminder, earlier this year there was a warning about e-bike batteries by the London Fire Brigade.
GOOD BIKE: In lighter news, The Times published a lengthy feature on the bright future for e-bikes, rather than just leaving them for couriers to use. Or assuming they are for older people. Read more (paywall). I’m personally an enormous e-bike fan. In fact, using shared e-bikes, I’ve just completed more than 300km in London.
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Not more charger doom and gloom.
If you look at the number of ultra-rapids it is growing faster than the number of EVs. Perhaps we should use the total kW capacity as a measure to avoid the vast number of ancient 2kW mistakes from distorting the picture.
Lumping rapids and ultra-rapids together is a problem because their purposes are different. Rapids are mainly destination charges, and ultra-rapids are journey chargers. There are a few old 50kW units on the motorway, but they are far out-numbered by the those on housing estates in places like Milton Keynes.
Building many more destination chargers at this point in the roll out would be a mistake, as they would just sit there unused, unmaintained and decaying. Again this has been the fate of the BP units in Milton Keynes where near enough everybody with an EV can charge at home. Until prices fall further, It is still very much a case of if you can't afford a house with off-road parking you can't afford an EV.