Pope goes electric and Musk reveals new Tesla

The latest news from the world of EVs

Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. 

In today’s edition… The Holy Father gets an EV, fleets shift green and I go a bit lovey-dovey for the new Tesla Model S Plaid.

Do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.

In the news…

HOLY CAR: My favourite story of the week is that a Nissan Leaf has been gifted to the Vatican by the Japanese carmaker. It was part of a ceremony to celebrate World Environment Day. Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the governorate of the Vatican City State, received the donated vehicle on the Vatican's behalf. The car itself was made in the holy lands of North East England. I’m certain the fact God himself only lives down the road from the factory (in Yorkshire) is why the Pope will find this EV so special. Read more. Previously, the EV car maker Fisker revealed it was making an electric ‘Popemobile’.

GREEN 7: At the moment many of the world’s leaders are kicking it back in Carbis Bay (or ‘Cabris’ as I mistakenly called it on Tuesday). From what I’ve seen, apart from some hand-shaking and pretty pictures, nothing of note is yet to come from the get-together. Perhaps in the next few days, that will change. However, what was notable is Boris Johnson arrived in Cornwall by private jet. And then, because he needed to get around, a fleet of Range Rovers were on hand. Presumably, they were driven down from London. So much for a green recovery.

IRONICALLY… The Treasury this week launched a new independent expert working group to tackle greenwashing (the act of making an investment, product or service seem climate supportive when actually it isn’t). Maybe Boris can be on the first agenda.

NEW LIFE: This week Gridserve bought Ecotricity’s remaining stake in the Electric Highway network. Earlier this year Gridserve, backed by Hitachi, took a 25% stake in the business. They then launched a new huge rapid charging forecourt at Rugby services. This buyout will likely lead to millions more being invested at motorway charging stations. And this is very good news after the sporadic and poorly maintained nature of Ecotricity. Read more on Autocar.

CONVERSION JOB: A London EV company has launched an ‘affordable’ conversion of the classic Mini Cooper. It costs £25,000 and has a 70-mile range. It’s been designed specifically for the city and actually looks rather good. Maybe we’ll see smaller cars back in town after all. Read more on City AM.

CHEAP IMPORTS: According to the Daily Telegraph, Ministers are considering a plan to axe the tariffs on imported electric vehicles (currently around 10%). The hope is this will make them cheaper and, as a result, encourage domestic suppliers to lower prices too. This could help get more people into electric cars. The idea was suggested by the Centre for Policy Studies. A Government source told the Telegraph that cutting tariffs is “not something we’re ruling out”, but said there are “no immediate plans” to do so at the moment. It could be a risky move if they do cut them, there’s no reason why car makers - riding the wave of EV interest - wouldn't just bank the extra wonga. Read the Telegraph story.

CLEAN DELIVERY: It seems commercial vehicles are going to be swiftly transitioning to all-electric in the next few years. Only this week, DPD announced that it had purchased 750 more electric vans (which will mean it has a fleet of nearly 1,500 EVs). But, the Royal Mail are on the charge behind. This week they revealed plans to buy 3,000 EVs to deliver goods to customers located in the increasing number of cities around the UK with Clean Air Zones. Read more on Business Green.

FLEET CHARGE: One of the growing challenges the UK is going to face is handling a surge in passenger EVs and commercial EVs. As the DPD/Royal Mail news shows, there is going to be new pressure on charging infrastructure from fleet vehicles. This is already a slight problem at some of London’s rapid chargers. Many residential EV owners have complained of always having to wait behind cab drivers (who increasingly have all-electric cars). However, BP Pulse might have a solution. They’ve unveiled the UK’s first rapid charging hub specifically for fleet vehicles. It’s based in central London and already has ten 50kW chargers installed - with 12 more following closely behind. BP’s plan is to have hundreds of similar hubs by 2030. Read more on BP’s website.

CABLE THEFT: I’m probably obligated to mention this EV story which has done the rounds a few times this week. It’s a MailOnline story suggesting that thefts of electric car charging cables could be the “next crime wave to sweep Britain's streets.” They suggest that EV cables are valuable for thieves looking for copper. The story is such drivel. There has been no real evidence for this at all, it’s just a metal trader and a waste company ‘warning’ it might happen. They’ve even said the cables are worth ‘£200’. If that’s true the cables are apparently doubling in value after being stolen (right…). I say, if thieves really want to cut up a cable while it’s carrying 7kW of electricity, let them fry. Sorry, try.

BBC COLUMN: Unlike the Mail, the BBC has written a second column in around a week singing the praises of EVs. The BBC’s environment correspondent has written in the main about what the surge in EV sales means for petrol stations, charging infrastructure and why this, in turn, may mean more people switching to electric. It’s quite long but certainly a feel-good read. View it here.

PAINT MISTAKE: Following on from Monday’s launch of an e-scooter trial in London, none of the trial companies (Dott, Tier and Lime) is yet to get going in Hammersmith and Fulham. The reason for the delay is the council haven’t yet painted ‘parking bays’ on the streets. They are now nearly a week behind!

New Tesla Model S Plaid Launched

Last night, Tesla unveiled the long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid edition. The high-end sedan was launched by Elon Musk at an event yesterday. Just before he hit the stage, the starting price for the Plaid was cheekily increased from £111,980 to £119,000. It’s thought this increase is to make up for the fact the Plaid+ was cancelled only recently for being no different to the Plaid (no plus).

As for the Plaid model itself, I think it’s an absolutely astonishing piece of engineering. Not only will it go from 0-60 in under 2 seconds - faster than any other family sedan you’ll come across - but it’s also got an enormous range of some 400 miles. At full whack, the Plaid’s motors will produce more horsepower than a Bugatti Veyron. And its top speed is 200mph.

Surely these facts would turn even the reddest of red neck petrolheads into electrical evangelists. It sounds biblical.

On the inside too it’s packed with the sort of gizmos we’ve come to expect from a Tesla, and then some. The steering wheel is a yoke (like an F1 car), the entertainment system is apparently as powerful as a Playstation 5 (someone actually played Cyberpunk 2077 on it during the launch event), and then you get items like ‘invisible aircon’. That’s right, no more vents. 

The new Tesla also is annoyingly smart. As one example, if you got into it and had an appointment in your calendar to visit the doctor, the car will just instantly plot a route there. You don’t need to tell it or smash postcodes in, it just knows. 

With Elon Musk, I find that either 50% of the time he’s a walking narcissistic gimmick. And the other 50% I’m totally starstruck by what he’s achieving. This new car is the 50% of Musk that is brilliant. 

Yes, it’s pricey and none of us commoners will ever probably afford it. But, that doesn't mean manufacturers like Ford and VW won’t take inspiration for their own EVs - which we can afford. This is why Tesla is the world’s most valuable car manufacturer, their vehicles are defining what it means to drive electric motors.

You can watch Tesla’s launch event here:

By Tom Riley