Slow grid connections 'biggest challenge' admits energy minister
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… Rishi Sunak is rumoured to be lining up a special moment to mark net zero, Britishvolt buyer scrambles for funding, and the UK’s energy minister admits slow connections to the grid is one of the government’s biggest challenges.
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.
Prepare for Sunak’s net zero moment
Recap… You may recall last week I wrote how the Prime Minister could do well to mirror some of the net zero enthusiasm being displayed by President Biden, whose recent Inflation Reduction Act is putting billions into decarbonisation programs, such as installing EV chargers.
New hope… In a report by The Times yesterday, where both Honda and separately the campaign group Transport & Environment bemoaned the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate delays, it was suggested that Rishi Sunak is planning a “big net zero moment”. Read more.
Really? Having read that report yesterday morning I was suspicious. However, I later attended the Conservative Environment Network conference in the afternoon where there were also strong rumblings of a ‘moment’ when the government would set out more about net zero. During a speech by the UK’s energy minister, Graham Stuart MP, he suggested in the coming weeks we should expect to see a response to the recent Chris Skidmore review, a Green Finance Strategy, and a series of other announcements, potentially with a focus on ‘greening’ big industry.
Disconnected… Also at the CEN event, during a Q&A with the energy minister, several of the questions from businesses towards the minister related to Distribution Network Operators being slow at making grid connections - one person gave an example of a battery storage company getting quoted a 13-year wait time. In response, the minister admitted that “possibly it’s the biggest challenge facing the [Energy Security and Net Zero] department”. Expect to hear more on this.
Forewarning… With the Budget coming up quickly on 15 March, in my edition on the Tuesday before will be a small special on one my favourite topics… VAT. Over the past few months, I’ve really noticed everybody you speak to in the sector has an opinion on it. Got a comment? Slide into my DMs…
Tactical changes as Recharge scrambles to buy Britishvolt
Recap... Earlier in February, it was revealed that the Australian battery start-up, Recharge Industries, was being lined up to acquire the collapsed Britishvolt’s business and assets, this includes the site in Blyth. See my summary.
The latest… According to the Financial Times, Ernst and Young, who are the administrators, sold the business to Recharge for about £30 million back in early February. However, the deal has taken longer as the Aussie start-up has ‘scrambled to raise funds’.
Worrying? I think it is and it isn’t. It would perhaps be ideal if the new owners were just swamped with cash. However, taking the opposite view, the fact Recharge is struggling with financing might mean they have to take Britishvolt back to basics – acting as a bootstrapping start-up again.
Strategic change… In an interview with the BBC, David Collard, CEO of the fund Scale Facilitation behind the purchase of Britishvolt, revealed that going forward they will keep the name, however, they will focus on making batteries for energy storage by 2025, and then it will focus on supplying batteries for high-performance cars.
However… Commentators are evidently suspicious of this switch. Ben Nelmes, CEO of the EV group New AutoMotive, tweeted on the FT’s report: “Two questions that seem key: 1. Given all that can be said for how excellent the Cambois [Blyth] site is, why is Recharge struggling to raise capital for it? 2. Why is Recharge having to adopt a strategy of supplying batteries initially for storage, rather than for cars?”
The right person? There are obviously a lot of people dubious about the future of Britishvolt, and no doubt it will continue to be followed closely as a barometer for the UK’s energy transition. Fingers crossed Collard’s plan works, though in his interview with the BBC, he admitted “I'm not saying I'm the best person in the world to run this project, but at the end of the day the administrators had a legal obligation to get the best return for creditors.” Read more.
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Latest EV news…
SION SUNSET: You may recall the EV start-up Sion Motors, which had been seeking to produce a solar panel-covered car, was struggling for funds at the end of last year. The Munich-based firm has now decided to focus its business purely on retrofitting its solar panel systems to existing vehicles. Read more.
NEW DAWN: In much better news, EO Charging, the British charging company founded on a farm in 2014, has agreed to an $80 million equity investment from Vortex Energy and Zouk Capital. Great news for a great UK business. Read more.
FUNDING BOOST: According to Sky News, Octopus Electric Vehicles is seeking £100m in funding to accelerate its growth. It’s made most of its gains thus far through personal, business and salary sacrifice leasing schemes. Read more.
OVER CHARGE: On the topic of leasing, new research out this morning by Transport & Environment has suggested drivers are being overcharged by many pounds to lease EVs. Apparently, as resale values of EVs are very strong, the monthly cost to lease them is not being reflected properly each month. Read more.
TOUCH DOWN: Today Connected Kerb is due to unveil 90 new charging points in Harrogate across 11 locations. The new devices will be officially launched by the former England rugby professional Martin Offiah, who is apparently a brand ambassador for Connected Kerb. Read more.
UGLY VOLTS: I bet nobody has ever written this next line before… here’s an interesting local council story related to planning permission. It seems there has been a disagreement between Gelding Borough Council and a property developer who has, allegedly, failed to install EV charging points on homes built since 2019. The developer, DDM Homes, said five of the six homes that have so far been built came with EV home chargers. However, one of the directors said most were removed by residents who thought they were “ugly”. I find it interesting because since June last year, all new homes and buildings are required to have chargers installed, and my thought has always been that developers will just go for the cheapest options. Read more.
TIME WASTERS: Speaking of local councils, North Somerset is running a consultation so people can “have their say on the future demand” for public chargers until 6 April. However, according to a strategy they’ve already completed, they’ve publicly acknowledged that 2,000 chargers will be needed by 2030. So, if they already know the demand, what on God’s green earth are they doing the consultation for? If the government’s local infrastructure scheme means we’ll see more of this time-wasting then we’re all doomed. Doomed! See it here.
TAKE PART: The rapidly growing EV charging app Bonnet has revealed its launching a crowdfunding campaign, with 150,000 of its drivers being invited yesterday to take a stake in the company. Read more.
GOOD CHAT: Talking of homegrown charging companies, fellow newsletter writer Graham Ruddick, who produces Off to Lunch, has this week spoken to Erik Fairbairn, founder and CEO of Pod Point, in his Business Studies podcast. Definitely worth a listen.
RENT CHARGER: According to an article in the Telegraph, it could be possible to earn £1,000 a year by renting your charger out. It sounds like a great vindication for believers of shared charging. However, in the detail, it seems most of these driveway enterprises are making the most money just from their actual space being an affordable way to park, rather than purely from the use of a charger. Though, the business Eco Experts estimate it’s possible to profit £74 a year from letting out your EV charger. Read more.
FULL THROTTLE: The Japanese carmaker, Nissan, which has a strong manufacturing base in the UK, has revealed plans to accelerate its EV strategy. It comes as the carmaker recognises that the shift to EVs was happening faster than expected and, despite taking an early lead with their Leaf, they could lose their edge. Read more.
BRITISH MADE: Speaking of UK production, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders last week, during January four in every 10 cars produced on our soil was electric in some form. Nice. Read more.
NO ACCESS: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is chairwoman of Sport Wales, has tweeted her concerns about EV charging points and their accessibility standards. While she acknowledges the government has made announcements in relation to improving accessibility, it seems Baroness Grey-Thompson seems lost on “what is happening” as a result. Read more.
BIG RISK: After many carmakers have thrust themselves into battery power, BMW has revealed that it is developing a hydrogen SUV. Up to 100 BMW iX5 Hydrogen SUVs are being built at a research facility at the German car company’s headquarters in Munich. Jürgen Guldner, BMW’s hydrogen programme manager, said of the iX5 Hydrogen. “I am convinced — I am not saying ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’ but that I am convinced — that hydrogen is the future.” The Times has said that the move is putting BMW’s credibility on the line, given the costs and barriers for it to be successful. In a cutting paragraph the paper writes, “For those who believe the electric car public recharging infrastructure for the one million-plus plug-ins on the road in Britain is woefully inadequate — offering one charging point to every thirty plug-in cars — and a huge barrier to mass adoption, the hydrogen picture looks laughable.” Read more.
NEW APP: In an update last week, Mercedes revealed that soon TikTok, amongst other apps, will be available to use in their cars – obviously not by the driver while the car is moving. Though, this underlines a wider shift of in-car infotainment that’s come along with the EV transition. Read more.
DEAR SIR: More utterly frustrating journalism this week as the MailOnline published a crazy article summarising what owners think about EVs. It’s very much dressed up as being negative, however, many of the letters they’ve published are from people who either don’t have EVs or talk about their hybrids. Read it and you’ll genuinely weep.
CYCLING SPARKS: As many people say, one of the best EVs you can get is an e-bike, and I read this great little profile of how a London electrician now runs a fleet of e-cargo bikes. Case studies like this are critical to encouraging others. Read it here.
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I have a bit of sympathy for North Somerset. Having an estimate of the number of chargers needed doesn't necessarily give much indication of what type and where they should be. It is a typical tourist area, where a significant proportion of demand will be from visitors as most dwellings have parking.
Ideas about where chargers should be located are also evolving. Car parks for example are pretty hopeless in my experience as they are either ICEd, unfeasibly slow or both.