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What do Tory leader hopefuls think about EVs
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Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… I look at what Tory leader hopefuls have said about EVs. Further down and elsewhere in EV land… Amazon ditches vans for e-cargo bikes in London, Octopus launches a new service for drivers, and the government publishes an EV myth-buster.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, please do feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com or simply reply to this email.
What Tory leader hopefuls think about EVs
As long-time readers may know, I have always been of the view that Boris Johnson was a positive force for EVs. While some of his party have argued that it was Carrie, his eco-campaigner wife, that encouraged him to bring the 2030 ban on internal combustion engines forward, the truth is even as far back as 2008 Boris suggested the plug would replace petrol.
But that’s irrelevant now, as since his resignation last Thursday, Tory MPs have begun throwing their hats in the ring to become the next leader – and, as a result, Prime Minister. Whatever your politics, this is important for the progress of clean transport in the UK.
Of the 10 potential candidates thus far, very few have provided any concrete reassurances about the environment. However, what nearly all have made clear is tax (and thus the pressure on household finances) is the area of focus. What that says to me is, MPs are willing to sacrifice policies to win. And, sadly, for many Tory MPs and Conservative supporters, the ‘green agenda’ isn’t a priority – though, I’m reassured that there are some 125 MPs in the Conservative Environment Network.
While it’s hard to predict what will happen when someone gets elected, we can at least guess what potential leaders might do. I’ve therefore compiled a full list of all the MPs gunning for the Tory leadership and their views (if any) on EVs and net zero policies in general.
A note I would just add here is, naturally, these MPs want to win the contest. However, with such a crowded field, many will ultimately align themselves with others, this may mean having their policies and key supporters swallowed up by other candidates. Just something to keep in mind if you’re thinking ‘this idiot has no chance’.
While Chancellor, Rishi was supportive of the government’s EV policies and put aside billions for new infrastructure, grants and other EV-related funding programmes, such as the recent Local EV Infrastructure Fund. He also kept taxes low for EV drivers, though in his last fiscal event he cut fuel duty (this led to him doing a now-infamous publicity stunt at a petrol station).
That aside, publicly Rishi has been supportive of EVs and the net-zero agenda – he’s mentioned them a few times in tweets. Given his proximity to Johnson’s premiership and agenda, it’s hard to conceive a situation where he’d reverse his views.
However, with the launch of the Energy Security Strategy earlier this year – in response to rising inflation following the Ukraine war – some have suggested net zero policies aren’t high up his priority list. Later on, under pressure from the rising cost of living, Rishi introduced a windfall tax on oil and gas firms but it included a tax super deduction for their investments. Some suggested this was a rather confusing policy all round. Closer to home in his own constituency, last year Rishi spotlighted a local company installing EV chargers in Northallerton on his website.
This morning, though, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary and one of the most supportive voices for EVs in the Tory party, has endorsed Rishi. I believe he’s the only Cabinet Minister that owns an EV (a Tesla Model 3).
When Theresa May was Prime Minister, Penny held two senior roles in her cabinet (one as Secretary of State for International Development and later as Defence Secretary). Under Boris, she has had a more junior role as Minister for Trade Policy since last year. Evidently, she’s been using that time well as currently Penny is second for MP nominations. But what does she make of EVs?
According to my research, on the face of it, Penny seems quite supportive of EVs. Only last month she was tweeting praising Royal Mail for its new electric fleet and in the year previous she highlighted her efforts combatting air pollution. Likewise, while going through Penny’s social media, I did see quite a few mentions of reducing car use entirely – this would put her very much at the pro end of environmentalism.
However, be warned. Over the weekend, Penny’s campaign was backed by the lobby group Fair Fuel UK – the group that campaigns for cutting petrol costs – of which she is a ‘founding campaign supporter’. She tweeted about this backing with a quote from Fair Fuel’s founder saying, under her leadership, Penny would “introduce fairer incentives to drive cleaner, instead of inflicting ill-informed cliff edge idealistic and costly punitive bans.”
Given Penny could end up being the conciliatory candidate for all those MPs who are supporting tax-cutting policies – which seems to be all of them apart from Rishi – this statement alarms me. Does it mean the 2030 ban would be overturned? I feel like clarity is needed.
Tom has been Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee since 2017. Given transport and the environment has never really been in his brief, very little is known of his views. Albeit, he’s shared a few poignant social media posts before about Britain achieving a ‘greener future’ and suggested we shouldn’t rely on China for battery materials – which to me shows a certain engaged knowledge of EVs and the net zero agenda. Earlier this year Tom also wrote a Times column about how leading the race to decarbonise would help European countries to improve competitiveness.
As I wrote at the start of the year, the current Foreign Secretary is hard to read politically. She has had a surprisingly long senior political career, having served in the cabinet’s of three Prime Ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson), including as Environment Secretary. What this shows to me is a political instinct to go where the winner is – bending her views where needed. As an example, despite campaigning against Brexit in 2016 she since became the UK’s Brexit champion abroad as International Trade and more recently Foreign Secretary.
In terms of EVs, it would be hard to guess her views. I am though reassured by the fact that in her campaign video to be leader, Liz specifically highlights the environment as a major challenge facing the country (alongside the economy and security).
Elsewhere, whilst at DIT, Truss did oversee a great many trade deals with the automotive sector being an important part. Previously she’s highlighted the investments in the UK by the likes of Nissan and also promoted the UK’s green agenda enthusiastically, such as in this Sun op-ed pre-COP26 titled ‘I want us to show the world that Great Britain really is a green and pleasant land’.
The former health secretary and vocal backbencher came second in the previous conservative leadership election to Boris. He also has made few comments publicly about EVs. In his own constituency, he has previously spoken that it was good news charging points were being built.
In my view, Hunt is probably one of the most ‘centrist’ Tories standing. Not that this equates to being more supportive of environmental policies, though I’d expect he would continue to uphold the deadline set previously for making transport cleaner from 2030.
The current Chancellor since last week, Nadhim has risen up the Tory ranks quickly and in multiple roles. One such that he held between 2019 and 2021 was a junior minister at BEIS, here Nadhim was very engaged in EV world.
In Parliament, Nadhim led several debates on EVs before the unveiling of the 2030 internal combustion ban. His social media feeds are filled with several posts promoting his work in this area, including that of Nissan, Aston Martin and McLaren. I would presume that, given his involvement with the automotive industry ahead of outlining the EV revolution, you’d think he’d very likely continue on the current path.
However, in the Daily Telegraph this morning, Nadhim has said of his leadership “I will focus my efforts on a transition to net zero by 2050 which puts our economy, jobs and skills first.” Adding that “Our security and economy must always come first. We cannot be held hostage by Russia, and we cannot leave struggling families to pick up the bill for net zero.” There was no mention of the environment in his launch video.
Perhaps relatively unknown, Kemi is a junior minister in the department of levelling up. She was backed early on by Michael Gove. Much like a few others in the contest, Kemi has raised suspicions of the UK’s net zero agenda. In an interview with The Telegraph, Kemi insisted she was "not someone who doesn't believe in climate change", but she argued it was "wrong of us to set a target without having a clear plan of the cost and knowing what it would entail.” On electric vehicles specifically, Kemi has said very little other than answering a couple of questions on the government’s behalf in parliament while a Treasury minister.
Though she isn’t standing yet, there are plenty of rumours Priti may do. Anyhow, who knows what Priti thinks about net zero or EVs. I assume she’s for it, given her support and seniority in Johnson’s government. But, then again, she appears to have stayed very much away from the conversation, almost to a weird level. Maybe that’s because it’s not in her brief, but which way she floats is anyone’s guess. What I would say is, Priti is known to be on the right of the party, which is notoriously more suspect of green policies.
Suella has said next to nothing on EVs, but in 2020 she did ‘wholeheartedly’ back Boris’ ten-point green agenda, which included the 2030 ban. However, like trees in the wind, politicians can change. And this week, Suella was rather publicly backed by Steve Baker, a backbench big wig and prominent member of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group in Parliament – he’s been critical of EVs before due to the high prices and lack of public infrastructure at the moment.
Over the weekend, Suella said that “in order to deal with the energy crisis we need to suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net zero by 2050. If we keep it up, especially before businesses and families can adjust, our economy will end up with net zero growth.” It’s not clear whether this would include EVs.
The former Health Secretary and ex-chancellor has a lot of frontline political experience. He also spent much of Boris Johnson’s premiership on the backbenches, having quit as Chancellor early on. In terms of EVs, I’ve not been able to find much. He has shared a few social media posts about new net zero buses and how ambulances at COP were EVs, but no opinions, purely polite posts. Although, Sajid did vote against the development of a Transport Decarbonisation Plan back in 2020, as well as against other environmental policies.
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Elsewhere in the last week
CAPITAL VANS: Last week Amazon revealed that it would be swapping out vans for deliveries in London in place of e-cargo bikes. To do so, Amazon is creating a new micromobility hub in the capital that will enable it to deliver a million more packages each year. By doing this, Amazon expects to save on thousands of van journeys. Amazon’s UK manager said on the news: "Our new e-cargo bikes, walkers and growing electric vehicle delivery fleet will help us make more zero emission customer deliveries than ever before across London and the UK in the coming months." Outside of London, Amazon already has 1,000 electric vans on the roads. Read more.
For those eagle-eyed readers, this e-cargo van seems to be the creation of British manufacturer EAV. They are based in Oxford and have been early leaders in developing practical (and attractive) e-cargo bikes.
NEW OFFER: Octopus Electric Vehicles (OEV), part of Octopus Energy, has in the last week officially launched its new service for personal drivers. This was initially trailed in The Fast Charge last month during my interview with OEV director Oli Boots (read the interview here). The new package will mean drivers in the UK can get a car, charger and energy tariff all under one roof. To date, OEV has been growing its business through a popular salary sacrifice scheme. Read more. Alongside the launch, OEV has also announced it’s setting up a base in the US.
FRESH GROWTH: UK-based RAW charging, which focuses on delivering destination chargers, has raised £250 million to further expand. The new funding came from Antin Infrastructure Partners. RAW plans to use the money to accelerate the delivery of 10,000 charging points in the next 3 years. RAW will have over 1,000 charging points operating by December 2022. Read more.
GOVT MYTHBUSTER: In all the chaos of last week, the government (or more specifically, Office for Zero Emission Vehicles) published a myth-buster about EVs. The factsheet covers the ‘common misconceptions’ about EVs. This includes fact-checking claims that batteries need replacing often, that EVs cannot be recycled, or that hydrogen will be the go-to for cars among many other claims. It’s great the govt has decided to share this but it’s unlikely to be seen by many real people on gov.uk. When I was a government press officer, we once made a Brexit myth-buster and its primary aim was to get media, trade bodies and businesses all singing from the same hymn sheet. Perhaps this is OZEVs aim? Read it here.
MY MYTHBUSTING: On the topic of myth-busting, about a month ago I mentioned I’d started a TikTok account (@thefastcharge) to talk about EVs. My videos have now had nearly half a million views, but more crucially I’ve had literally hundreds of comments and questions each week about EVs. What this shows to me is that TikTok isn’t just a channel for teens dancing about, it is a place you can engage people on serious topics. Hopefully, Shell is ready for this, as the FT reported they are hiring someone to manage their account.
FALSE RANGE: Speaking of challenges, the consumer group Which? has published new research saying that on average EVs achieve 45 miles less range than manufacturers say. Which? tested 60 different cars to develop these results, though I’m sure many on planet EV will dispute. Read more.
By Tom Riley
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