Third of EV charging sites are lampposts
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… lampposts make up a third of all charging locations, SureCharge becomes the fifth biggest network, and Osprey puts down the marker for other operators to follow.
Also below... a great Q&A with InstaVolt plus a little dive into EV mineral costs and why recycling matters.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, please do drop me a line at email@example.com or simply reply to this email.
In the last week…
LAMPED UP: As of this morning there are 8,133 lampposts which also double as EV chargers in the UK. This means lamppost chargers account for well over a third (nearing half) of all EV charging sites across the country – there are about 20,000 sites in total. These figures are based on my calculation of the known number of chargers belonging to ubitricity, char.gy and SureCharge – all of which are lamppost networks. To me, it’s little wonder the humble lamppost has become such a great choice for charging. Repurposing streetlights as charging points is the cheapest, quickest, and arguably one of the most effective ways to offer those without a driveway charging infrastructure.
TOP FIVE: The dominance of lamppost chargers is perhaps best demonstrated by the sudden rise of SureCharge, a network founded by construction company FM Conway. They are a relatively unknown brand compared to other networks, yet they are growing with huge gusto. They now have over 1,600 chargers around the UK making them the fifth biggest network (just above Source London and below Chargeplace Scotland). As readers may recall, I first wrote about SureCharge only two months ago and since then they’ve added 400 new chargepoints – an increase of a third as they’ve literally carpet-bombed urban areas. The company also just won a contract to supply Hammersmith and Fulham Council with 2,000 chargers.
NO ZAP: Interestingly, the vast majority of SureCharge’s devices remain unlisted on Zap-Map and haven’t been in over two months (despite people asking online). I wonder if this is due to Zap-Map being unable to keep up with surging networks, or perhaps operators themselves are not engaging. In any case, if all SureCharge’s locations were added to Zap-Map, the total number chargers for the UK would likely be pushed to 33,000 – rather than the 32,000 figure at the last count.
DELIVERED FUNDS: Back in the Spring, the government promised to deliver a new Local EV Infrastructure scheme to support authorities rolling out networks, especially for those without driveways. It’s not every time you get to say this, but it was great to see last week the government delivering £20 million of funding for its first pilot areas, which are; Barnet, Dorset, Durham, Kent, Midlands Connect [Lincolnshire is the lead authority], North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, and Warrington. The government expects this funding will deliver 1,000 new chargers. That may seem vastly small, but it’s just a pilot part of a wider £450 million scheme. Likewise, it should get authorities oiled up to roll out more in future. Let’s just hope the next Prime Minister stays us on this path. Read more.
PRICEY TIMES: As energy prices go up and up in the UK (and elsewhere), there have been several news stories about the rising cost to charge an EV – such as this Which? article on Friday. I think there are two points to make here, firstly, many of the stories are widely inflated – see Simon from the Carbon Brief’s debunking of the Daily Telegraph’s claims here. Secondly, I’m not sure anyone denies prices aren’t going up; they are. But, that’s a long way from them being an impact – aka, it costing too much to recharge and use your vehicle, which is what these stories imply. Though, on a more serious note, last week Osprey’s CEO tweeted that wholesale electricity hit 75p per kWh and I did wonder how the margins, certainly for public networks, are looking right now. Given there are some 67 small charging networks operating in the UK, I wonder if any of them won’t survive the energy crisis.
SAFE CHARGING: Last week saw a great moment in the progress of EVs as Osprey opened a game-changing accessible hub. Their new site comes about after Osprey signed up to ChargeSafe, the organisation that scores charging stations based on 63 safety and accessibility criteria. The new Osprey site in Brackley, Northamptonshire, scored 4.46 out of 5. It has 12 parking bays for 8 chargers, so they can be used by wheelchair users. Hopefully, this has got a lot of other networks thinking carefully about how they roll out infrastructure going forward. Read Osprey’s interview talking to Autocar. Also, see their website.
INSTA BOSS: Speaking of charging network CEOs, MoveElectric has a really insightful Q&A with InstaVolt’s CEO, Adrian Keen. InstaVolt is the largest open rapid network in the UK. One of the most interesting parts of the Q&A for me was about the number of chargers being installed at each site. Adrian told MoveElectric: “Right now, two chargers don't cut it anymore and we always look at installing four devices as a minimum, mainly six or eight on a motorway. We’ve got a site on the M40 in Banbury in Oxfordshire where two years ago we installed eight charging points which at the time was one of the biggest motorway hubs. We’ve just had to expand it to 16 because it's that busy, and in a way you never see it coming. So there is a responsibility on us to think bigger and to install more devices.” Give it a read here.
MINERAL COSTS: Lithium, cobalt and nickel. These are precious metals essential for EV batteries and for most of this year their prices have been accelerating. This has led to several carmakers upping prices. However, over the past few months, the price of each of these key elements has plateaued or even reduced. Lithium, for example, has hovered around the same peak since March.
Meanwhile, nickel, has dropped back to where it was at pre-Ukraine crisis. As a reminder, Russia is the world’s third largest nickel producer.
Elsewhere, cobalt has actually dropped to one of its lowest points of the last 12 months.
Why is this? At a guess, the fears of a global slowdown are pushing prices down, especially with the poor growth in China, matched to suppliers getting used to a new normal with Russia-Ukraine. Likewise, worth remembering many carmakers are trying to cut the use of cobalt and nickel in EV batteries. I wonder if we’ll see carmakers passing on these better margins…
MINERAL VALUE: Speaking of minerals, last week the main story in The Fast Charge was that a company called Redwood Materials quietly took a majority stake in a Yorkshire chemical company. Many people have looked at me with glazed looks about this, so let me just briefly tell you why it’s a major development for the UK. In short, transport decarbonisation is made up of a holy trinity of sectors. Vehicles are the son, the support structure (like energy companies and charging networks) is the holy spirit, but the father is the supply chain. As the CEO of Benchmark Minerals said this week, “the only way automakers will be able to secure new long-term lithium is to own the assets.” And that’s a challenge because China has amassed huge influence and ownership over much of the materials we need for decarbonisation. One of the solutions, therefore, is for us to reuse the materials that enter the western economies. Companies like Redwood Materials, which recycle batteries, will help us establish this circular chain. This won’t just have cost benefits for consumers, but also geopolitically will mean not having to rely on countries like China for our supply. Its importance cannot be overstated.
MOTOR SHOW: Tomorrow I’m slipping into my white chinos and heading to Blenheim Palace for Salon Privé, the motoring event for supercars and classic cars - past, present and future. While there I’m hoping to get a look at and chat to people about EVs, including (fingers crossed) the electric Deus Vayanne hypercar – which contains a monstrous 2,200 horsepower hidden in a sleek Canali suit. If you’re attending, do drop me an email.
TOP 10: Over the weekend, The Sunday Times published its list of the top 10 best EVs to buy this year. They were… Tesla Model 3, VW ID.4, Polestar 2, Kia EV6, Mercedes EQA, Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Volvo XC40, Ford Mach-E and the BMW i4. While there are some good cars on that list, were they only picking out large SUVs and saloons?
NEW LAUNCH: Speaking of small cars, news this morning that the Chinese car brands Ora and BYD are set to launch in the UK before Christmas. The two brands are currently in talks with dealers to launch them in the country. Read more.
APPLE CART: For what feels like many years, Apple has talked about its ambition to manufacture a car. In Apple, the team delivering this is known as the ‘Special Projects Group’. As noted by Reilly Brennan of Trucks VC Fund, it seems they now have over 100 positions available in Americaland. Perhaps this is a sign of a renewed focus. Looking at the trouble other EV start-ups have had, God knows why they’re so keen. See them here.
By Tom Riley