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Sunak leaves 2030 petrol car ban in limbo
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello, I’m Tom Riley and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top story in today’s edition is the recent debate about the future of the 2030 petrol and diesel ban. Lots of comments and expert views below.
Elsewhere… Motor Fuel Group blasts slow grid connections, Tata’s new gigafactory, and Jeremy Clarkson likes an electric retrofitted Alfa Romeo.
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.
Deadline for ending petrol cars could be softened
Background: Last week, a by-election in the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip – formerly occupied by Boris Johnson – incited a crisis of confidence amongst Labour and Conservative politicians about their green policies. The by-election was seen by many as a referendum on the ULEZ expansion in London – which Labour’s Mayor had instigated – and led to the surprise victory for the Conservatives who opposed it.
Summary: Since the by-election, both political parties have openly questioned if their net zero agendas will help or hinder them in the next election. Unfortunately, both camps seem to be leaning away from net zero policy. In particular, the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 has become top in the firing line.
Starmer’s response… After the Uxbridge defeat, Labour’s leader urged London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to “reflect” on the ULEZ changes. In a speech over the weekend, Kier commented: “We are doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour party end up on each and every Tory leaflet. We’ve got to face up to that and learn the lessons.”
Sunak’s reaction… In the days following, Sunak has faced an intense onslaught from senior Tories who have urged him to ‘junk’ green policy. Yesterday, during an interview, the Prime Minister appeared to row back his stance on climate policies, including the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars. Sunak said: “I’m standing up for the British people because I’m also cognisant that we’re living through a time at the moment where inflation is high. That’s having an impact on household and families’ bills. I don’t want to add to that, I want to make it easier.”
He added… “We’re going to make progress towards net zero but we’re going to do that in a proportionate and pragmatic way that doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives.”
Official comment… Later, a No10 spokesperson told the media that the 2030 timeline remains the government’s commitment. However, in a suggestion that a softening is coming, they also said: “We will scrutinise this approach and make sure it’s the correct one.”
Government sources… close to Sunak told the Mail: “It is fair to say he would be open to reviewing it. There is no review at the moment, but he wants to make sure we are always taking a proportionate and pragmatic approach, particularly as we are way ahead of a lot of other countries on a lot of this green stuff, including vehicles.” The Sun reported there is an active discussion in No10 about it.
Worried faces… The comments by both party’s have shaken businesses and campaigners alike. Quentin Willson from FairCharge, said: “It’s clear to me that both Conservative and Labour are rowing back on environmental policies because they see Net Zero, EVs, and ULEZ as divisive electoral issues, to be leveraged for political gain rather than societal benefit.” Elsewhere, a spokesperson for trade body ChargeUK, whose membership has committed £6 billion to build EV infrastructure, commented: “If government fails to stand firm to its commitments this investment and the supply of EVs entering the market will be at risk.”
Blue view… Not all Tories agree with ditching the 2030 ban. Cameron Smith, spokesman for the Conservative Environment Network, a group that includes 150 MPs and peers, told me: “Delaying the phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars would be a mistake. We must move to electric vehicles fairly and affordably to tackle climate change and improve air quality.” He added: “Pushing the target back would contribute to climate change and risk investors going overseas.”
However… Even if the Tories hold firm on their net zero commitments, Labour could still switch. My Pagefield colleague, Juliet Patterson, former adviser to Shadow Climate Secretary Ed Miliband, explained: “There was already a risk that in their efforts to escape attacks about fiscal incompetence Labour would sacrifice some of their more ambitious green policies. We’ve already seen the Climate Investment Pledge fall prey to that… But the role ULEZ has apparently played in the Uxbridge result means the Party’s green champions could even face internal pressure to row back on positive, tangential policies which could now provide an easy target for their political opponents.”
Next steps? Maybe not immediately, but a change to the 2030 ban seems inevitable. However, a total rollback is highly unlikely. Instead, it will presumably result in allowances for specific groups, such as niche car manufacturers (an ‘Aston Martin exemption’ has been mentioned as far back as February). This would not be ideal, though take solace that after three years of policymaking, global investment pitching, funding, and grant schemes, it would be cataclysmic for the Tories to abandon their EV policy altogether. Likewise, for Labour, a further green U-turn will look equally desperate and frustrate younger voters. Time will tell.
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Latest EV news…
🔋 Massive news last week, which had long been rumoured, was that Tata will build a new gigafactory in Somerset – which also came with a £4 billion investment pledge. The government itself is said to have put in £500 million. The new site should bring about 4,000 jobs. Read more.
✅ Last week the EV Association for England launched ‘The Great EV Charging Survey’. It’s open for any EV drivers to fill out until 9 August and takes about 10 minutes. The finding will be used to feedback to the government. Find it here.
🔊 Speaking of EVA England, on Wednesday lunchtime they are hosting a townhall event with Sophie Adams, Head of Consumer Experience at the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles. You can watch it here.
📺 Tonight on BBC One at 8 PM is a programme called ‘Electric Cars: What They Really Mean for You’. It’s available to watch online now. It covers retrofitted cars, a bit about batteries including their supply, vehicle prices, planning problems, Giles Coren is in there, Gridserve’s forecourt, synthetic fuel, and hydrogen. This will no doubt create another burst of media activity.
🚗 In its latest quarterly filings, Tesla’s recent price cuts appear to have slightly hampered its profit margins – which now sit at 18.2% compared to 26.2% a year ago. Read more (paywall).
🔌 The rapid charging company Gridserve has opened 12 chargers at Cornwall Services. This is a region currently poorly served so good news. Read more.
📗 Last week, the EV wing of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) published a report titled ‘Charging forward to 2030’. It highlights recommendations and a roadmap for how the industry can keep pace with the deployment of chargers. Find it here.
😠 Speaking of charger deployment, grid connections remain a huge barrier for charging networks looking to activate and install their devices. For the CEO of Motor Fuel Group, William Bannister, enough is enough – as he publicly shared a letter to Northern Powergrid’s CEO complaining of “many months of severe and unacceptable delays.” Bravo. Read more (paywall).
😡 Bannister is not alone, Ken McMeikan, CEO of Moto, also complained in The Sunday Times that 16 Tesla superchargers – costing £1 million to install – have had their connection to the grid delayed. Read more.
💻 Could using smarter battery technology cut down EV charging times? WAE Technologies thinks so. They’ve estimated that a typical car using its intelligent tech could speed up charging by 25%. Learn more.
⏱️ In September Mercedes-Benz will reveal a new entry-level EV model. It will use the same range-maxing tech as the EQXX – which promises 620 miles of range. Read more.
Feel like this is an old (or at least repeated) story now. A new report from the Institute of the Motor Industry has found that EVs are 40% more likely to fail an MOT tyre failure than petrol cars. The reasons given were the weight and greater torque stress. Read more.
📝 According to a recent report, the weekend just gone might have been the busiest ever for EV charging. Learn more.
🔌 InstaVolt, one of the UK’s largest rapid charging networks, is planning to open a large hub inside the M25 in Brentford at Syon Park. Read more.
👨🌾 In some surprising news, Jeremy Clarkson, the infamous petrolhead, wrote a positive review about a retrofitted Alfa Romeo called the Totem GT. The company has used the chassis of an original Alfa Giulia and put in an electric motor. Read the review (paywall).
👍 Finally, one year after the launch of the Energy Superhub outside Oxford, the council has revealed that it’s facilitated the charging of 32,000 EVs – which is on average 95 per day. Learn more.
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