Tesla co-founder's EV recycling start-up inches forward in Leeds
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… Redwood Materials is slowly adding to its team in the UK, Goldman believes Europe will lead the world on EVs, and Toyota shifts into a ‘BEV-first’ mindset.
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.
New departments on the block
Background… Last week the government revealed it was splitting up BEIS into three new departments, these are the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Department for Business and Trade, and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Their roles and responsibilities can be found here.
For us… The most important department for the EV sector will likely be the Energy Security and Net Zero one. It’s being headed up by Grant Shapps, owner of a Tesla Model Y, alongside Graham Stuart, previously responsible for energy at BEIS. Also joining DESNZ includes Andrew Bowie MP, Lord Callanan and Amanda Solloway MP who will be the junior ministers. Read more.
Why now… There are a lot of questions about the purpose of these new departments, but my own take is that having smaller, potentially nimble, operations that are mission-led can work very well when you need to get stuff done. The fear is that the creation of these organisations is purely a strategic move by Downing Street to ‘own’ issues like energy security, or business and trade (aka growth) by the next election. Time will tell if these new “start-up” departments - as described by one senior official - deliver or not.
Redwood Materials UK inches forward
Background… The American battery recycling start-up, Redwood Materials, which was set-up by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, last week received a huge $2 billion loan from the US Department for Energy. The money will be used to build and construct Redwood’s battery plant in Nevada.
Who? If you’re not sure why Redwood Materials is important, the company is leading the way to ensure we can reuse rare earth materials – such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt – from EV batteries and other clean energy products. This is critically important for the sustainability of the EV transition globally. Only this morning, the FT have published a feature highlighting the strategies many carmakers are looking at to reduce the emissions from EV batteries - with reuse and recycling being a key part. Ideally, the life of battery materials will go… gigafactory > manufacturer > car > Redwood/recycling (and repeat).
And? For those who don’t know, Redwood Materials has a UK base of operations in Normanton, just outside Leeds. This followed JB Straubel’s acquisition of a company based there named Inprotec, which had expertise in chemical engineering. The team has since grown to over 10 people, according to LinkedIn.
Hiding in plain sight… I’m not sure the media have ever reported on Redwood in the UK, which given they could have the same scale and importance as a gigafactory has always perplexed me. This is perhaps because to date the company has chosen to keep an extremely low profile here. This may be as about a year ago the company revealed it would build two plants in Europe, but has only ever seemed clear on building in Germany – where there are plenty of carmakers, which main man JB said was crucial to where recycling plants are located. Maybe the jury is out on Britain?
Positive noises… There could be hope though, as the firm is currently recruiting for a Mechanical Design Engineer in the UK. In the description, Redwood writes the role holder will need to “design, build, and commission custom machines and automated equipment”. They’ll also need to “create concepts/layouts and work with stakeholders to define architecture” and “conduct training”, amongst other responsibilities.
In the present… every EV produced is pretty much still on the road but, as 2030 approaches, we may start to see early EV models reach their battery end-life. This is when companies like Redwood Materials will come into their own and be crucially important. In America, lots of carmakers and dealerships are already lined up to get involved in this circular economy. I hope their slowly growing UK team is a sign that we may see a future plant here.
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Latest EV news…
BIG RESEARCH: Fresh research last week by Goldman Sachs predicted that worldwide EV sales will soar to 73 million units by 2040, up from 2 million in 2020. It’s expected that Europe will play a leading role in this, with the region expected to lead the world with adoption. Read more.
DEEP DIVE: Last week I provided a short summary of the company behind the deal with Britishvolt. The Sunday Times Driving team has written up a longer deep dive. Very good. Read here.
MAP OUT: Speaking of the Sunday Times, they had an interesting story about how the Ordnance Survey is going to soon invite users to propose new symbols. However, the story highlighted how, in 2015, OS Maps had pledged to add EV chargers but are yet to do so. Well, to be honest, given we could have 100,000s of them in just a couple of years, I personally think it best to leave them off. See it here.
NEW TRACK: Toyota, which recently replaced its CEO after years of not really moving on EVs, has pledged to have a “BEV-first mindset” going forward. The incoming CEO, Koji Sato, was speaking in relation to Lexus, which is the premium brand of Toyota – Lexus will launch an EV by 2026. Read more.
REVERSE FERRET: On the topic of organisations that are now pro-EV, is this the most positive EV story the Daily Telegraph has ever published? Check out ‘Our only car is electric and we’re never going back’.
CLEAN SOURCE: Yorkshire Water is planning to install up to 1,000 new EV chargers across its sites and staff homes in a bid to support the expansion of EVs across its commercial fleet. This is based on a partnership with UK Power Network Services, which will install and maintain the chargers. Read more.
ODD DECISION: Residents in North Somerset have complained that a yellow frame was built into a pavement with the aim of protecting an EV charger – which had yet to be installed. The local council has since confirmed that it will be removed. Their spokesperson said: “The yellow structure was a temporary installation of a prototype frame for protecting an on-street electric vehicle charger. It’s not staying as our highway officers have decided it’s not suitable.” Instead, they are going to put bollards next to the charger. *Eye roll*. Read more.
TAKEN OUT: Speaking of infrastructure being removed, the editor of Driving Electric tweeted yesterday that he’d noticed that in his local area lamp post chargers were being removed. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this happening. Does anyone know what the reason behind this is or when they might get reinstalled?
GRAND PLANS: The Norwegian EV charging company, Wattif, revealed plans last week to get very involved in building UK destination chargers by 2030. The firm has said they will be installing new chargers soon in Leeds and Scotland. This news from Wattif comes after they recently raised £44.2m. Read more.
SAD PLANS: In not so great news, Ford has shared this morning that it’s going to cut one in five jobs in the UK - or about 1,300 in total. This is part of a long-expected restructuring programme across the world as the CEO, Jim Farley, seeks to prepare the company for an EV future. Most of the UK cuts will be at its research site at Dunton in Essex. Read more.
REDUCE PRICES: Last week, FairCharge and the RAC called on the government to decouple the wholesale price of electricity from gas as a way to reduce EV charging costs. This follows the closure of the government’s Review of Electricity Market Arrangements consultation which closed in October. One would imagine making this change could be an open goal for the newly established Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Read more.
BRAND LAUNCH: The forecourt operator Jet has officially launched ‘Jet Charge’, an ultra-rapid charging network. It follows a soft launch at three Jet sites – Jet Beacon Garage in North Yorkshire, Jet Newton Park in County Durham, and Jet’s flagship Refinery Service Station in North Lincolnshire. Read more.
BLOCKED UP: A report by Sustrans, a walking and cycling charity, has published the results of a survey of 1,000 disabled people. It found that “pavement clutter”, such as EV chargers, is making it harder for disabled people to move around. Xavier Brice, the chief executive of Sustrans, said: “The UK Government must listen and take action to create places planned around people, not cars.” Read more.
EVENT DATE: It’s the FT Future of the Car event on 9-11 May. It’s probably the premier automotive get together in the calendar. Tickets are pretty spenny but you can always get a digital pass instead.
MY NETWORK: Readers may recall that my little side project this year is to create a charging network. Thus far, I’ve already concluded I don’t require the right skillset nor patience for building physical infrastructure, so I’ve since been focussed on what a virtual network might look like. The idea my brother and I are working towards is creating a way for solo or micro-operators to unify under the same high standards while remaining independent. We’re just finishing our plan but if you’d be keen to learn more, please do get in touch. And thank you greatly to the raft of people that have offered advice.
By Tom Riley | Check my Linktree for LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter