Seven EV takeaways on the Net Zero Review
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… Britishvolt falls into administration, seven takeaways on Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review, a new smart charging action plan, and a key No10 automotive advisor leaves.
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Seven EV takeaways on the Net Zero Review
Finally published: As many will no doubt have seen, the independent review of Net Zero by Chris Skidmore MP – first commissioned by Liz Truss in those bleak 44 days – was published on Friday. It’s a whopper of a document, covering some 340 pages. See it here. Or the press release.
Quick thoughts: While many had been concerned about the aims of the review – as the Truss government was known to be fairly sceptic of many Net Zero policies from a timeline perspective – Chris has seemingly delivered an incredibly in-depth review of the opportunities and threats faced to the Net Zero agenda. According to Chris, his team handled 1,800 written submissions, 50 evidence roundtables and he spoke directly with 1,000 participants at engagement sessions. Bravo.
What does it say? The review is extremely wide-ranging and, to be honest, I’ve not read every inch yet, but for EVs, there are some notable observations and calls to action by Skidmore for the government to consider. Here are my seven quickfire takeaways.
No.1… NETWORK: The review clearly identified that one of the blockers to Net Zero are bottlenecks with rolling out infrastructure and planning. It wrote:
“We have made great progress decarbonising already with success stories in offshore wind and electric vehicles and it is essential we continue these. However, too often, we heard of problems hampering business and local areas from going as far and as fast as they want to. Whether it is lack of policy clarity, capital waiting for investible propositions, infrastructure bottlenecks, or delays in the planning system.”
Under this, the review advised the government to launch a new cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy by 2025. This would cover infrastructure for “electricity, hydrogen, other liquid and gaseous fuels and CO2 networks that support our green economy”.
No. 2… DELIVERY: Skidmore has called for the creation of the Office for Net Zero Delivery. This would be responsible for placing net zero delivery “at the heart of government thinking, ensuring best practice for key delivery projects, and taking ownership of net zero priorities where they span multiple departments”. I like the ambition of this, but in my experience creating new quangos never really works without them having total independence and authority.
No. 3… ZEV: The review backed the swift delivery of the zero emission vehicle mandate, recommending it apply from 2024 while maintaining regulations and funding to support EV uptake.
No. 4… PRICES: Cost factors with EVs remain crucial, and the review recognised affordability of cars (amongst other green tech products) as one of three major barriers to net zero’s success.
“17% of adults have no savings at all and one in ten have £100 or less in the UK. For many, there are real challenges to affording an electric vehicle or insulation for their homes – regardless of their personal support for net zero or the fact that it may save them money in the long-term.” (see more on page 219)
No. 5… MINERALS: Skidmore noted that the supply chain of critical minerals, such as those needed for EVs, is not resilient enough. The review suggests this could cause bottleneck issues in the future as well as geopolitical tensions. The review goes on to suggest the circular economy will be key to helping this. (NB, reminder that US Redwood Materials has an under-the-radar base in Yorkshire).
No. 6… BIKES: It’s not all about getting into cars, the review rightly recommends that active travel (such as walking or cycling) needs to be more readily encouraged, as otherwise congestion and carbon savings will not be achieved for a long time. One suggestion is guaranteed long-term funding for active travel, such as bikes. (see more on page 229).
No. 7…VAT: The review has recommended that the government equalise VAT between public charging (20%) and private home chargers (5%) in 2024. The review notes that public charging is around two to three times more expensive than home electricity. This is a nice win for the FairCharge campaign if it is introduced.
Final comment: With many of these reviews, they get published with a bang and then fade away. However, if you want an indication of how seriously the government will take the recommendations here, my next segment below was something the review called for - and here it is four days later.
Government launches huge push to off-peak tariffs
Action stations: This morning the government has revealed a new plan – the EV Smart Charging Action Plan – alongside Ofgem that will seek to tap into the potential of smart charging and to make it the preferred method of long-duration charging (aka. overnight) by 2025.
Why? The government believes the use of smart charging by high mileage motorists could save drivers up to £1,000 every year – though more likely £200 for the average driver. This is because the electric tariffs are cheaper at night, and through smart chargers, the tariffs or time of charge can be switched seamlessly.
How? To help put this plan into action, the government is allocating £16m that will go to funding projects that help harness smart charging, such as lamppost networks with off-peak tariffs – notably, both ubitricity and Char.gy recently revealed off-peak tariffs – all the way to schemes where the use of domestic appliances can be integrated into a smart charging system. Read more on GOV.UK.
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The latest EV news…
NEW JOB: Hamish Phillips, Head of Automotive Strategy at Downing Street, is leaving his post after 18 months in the role. Hamish revealed the news in a post on LinkedIn a few days ago, including the hashtag ‘#OverAndOut’. Hamish joined No10 from Arrival and was involved in the infrastructure strategy as well as the ZEV mandate – amongst many other policies.
BRITISH FAILURE: Hopes for the struggling battery gigafactory Britishvolt seemed to be looking positive last night. However, this morning the company is set to fall into administration. This is a sad day for the progress of the EV transition in the UK, though it’s been very much in the post - the firm has repeatedly struggled. One assumes it might not be the last we hear about the firm, as no doubt someone might now swoop in to buy it for parts, and there will definitely be lots of blowback for the government’s levelling up agenda - the government has refused to provide a lifeline to Britishvolt at the end of last year. Should make the launch of a new group called ‘Conservatives in Energy’ tomorrow night interesting. Read more.
NEW LIFE: In better news, Lunaz, a company based in Silverstone that upcycles EVs – they take petrol engines out and put battery power in – has just opened a 200,000-square-foot site in Silverstone. This has created 300 jobs with the site having the capacity to upcycle 1,100 vehicles each year. Really cool stuff.
WET TESLA: Funny story from Berkshire as a Tesla owner was photographed using Superchargers surrounded in shin-deep flooding. Many may believe this is unsafe – as water and electricity seldom go well together – but as Ginny Buckley from Electrifying.com said to The Sun, it’s probably safe as “if either the car or the charger sense the slightest hint of a short circuit or malfunction, it will shut off the flow.” Read more.
BAD TASTE: Talking of Tesla, last week they cut the price of their vehicles by between 10-13% in the UK – or about a £7,000 saving on the Model Y and a £5,500 saving on the Model 3. The reason for the drop is to boost demand as the carmaker faces increasing competition and a perilous economy. However, many drivers who bought Tesla’ before the drop are rather furious to have paid significantly more. They may also get less money back when selling their car second-hand now. My view is, flash sales and price reductions are normal practices in other parts of retail, cars are not excluded, so the idea of there should be some sort of ‘redress’ is quite entitled. Read more.
NEW TRY: Autocar has a good piece highlighting how BMW and Toyota are both taking another crack at hydrogen EVs this year. Read more.
TURN ON: Drivers in Scotland are frustrated as they are having to wait endlessly for new rapid charging hubs to be switched on. The Motor Fuel Group, who are surging forward with MFG EV Power, have raised frustration that equipment is being left idle as sites are not being connected by Scottish energy providers. In a letter to SSEN Distribution, MFG said it was “unacceptable” as some sites installed in September last year remain unpowered. Read more.
FINE MANDATE: Jaguar Land Rover has said they are worried they will have to pay lots of fines under the government’s proposed zero emission mandate. In a Sunday Times article, the carmaker said it had warned ministers that having to pay fines would hamper its plans, which include relaunching its entire fleet as electric-only by 2025. Read more.
BIG BUZZ: Astoundingly, to me at least, VW has revealed that orders for its ID. Buzz – the modern electric version of its original camper van – has exceeded expectations. Apparently, even before the vehicle arrived at dealerships in autumn, customers had already ordered 21,000. There are currently 6,000 already with customers.
SAVE THE DATE: As mentioned last week, the Department for Transport has scheduled Wednesday 25 January at 9.30 for the next release of official EV charger statistics. I will be publishing a standalone email the morning after with full analysis.
EVENT PLUG: For any interested readers, Matt Mace, the editor of edie.net, is coming in to do a lunch meeting at my comms agency on 26 January to talk about the sustainability agenda and how to engage on green initiatives. The location is a restaurant in Soho. We have a couple of seats available if you fancy it – just drop me an email.
E-CARGO BIKE: Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV), the British creators of the e-cargo bike that looks like a small van, have successfully raised about £1m from crowd investment (including a teeny tiny amount from yours truly). I see their bikes endlessly in London and they already have partnerships with companies like Amazon and Westminster Council.
NEW NETWORK: Speaking of upcoming EV companies, I hadn’t heard of them before, but it seems there’s another charging network focused on lampposts hitting the scene in earnest – the company in question is called ChargeLight. It’s not clear how many locations they have – as their app is not yet released.
But… as wise business folk once said, if you want to make money in a gold rush, start selling spades. And it’s noticeable the company behind ChargeLight’s tech is City EV. They are a UK-based manufacturer of chargers, with their main product being the lamppost chargers. Networks using them include SureCharge, ChargeLight, Electric Brighton, and Joju.
Easy peasy… I’ve written before about the number of ‘micro networks’ – charging networks with very few chargers – popping up, and I’m sat here wondering, with tech this easily and cheaply available, how hard could it be to launch my own public network? So, as a somewhat ambitious project this year, I’m going to try it out. Expect updates in the weeks and months ahead.
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