UK needs to quadruple pace of charger rollout says CMA director
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… there’s finally an EV Jeremy Clarkson likes, a Competition and Markets Authority director delivers a huge lecture on EV charging, plus Rishi Sunak and what he might mean for the sector.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, my contact details are below or simply reply to this email.
NEW PM: After a very short leadership election, the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been elected as Leader of the Conservative Party by MPs. It comes in one of the most bizarre weeks of the past few decades which saw the Home Secretary resign, MPs dragged screaming to vote on fracking, Truss quitting, and Boris Johnson making a daring return to No10. As it happens, the weekend only had room for one comeback story, and that belonged to David Tennant as Dr Who, as MPs and supporters instead told Boris to bog off. In his opening speech as leader to Tory MPs, Sunak said the party needed to “unite or die” and he used his first public appearance to warn of the economic challenge facing the UK which required “stability” to overcome. But what does this mean for the EV sector?
WHAT NOW: Well, the first order of business will be to appoint a new cabinet. This will be made up of Sunak’s supporters, which tend to be more centre-right, and a sprinkling of the Truss/Johnson era ministers (for “unity”). Without a doubt, like Dettol spray, I’m 99.99% confident that Jacob Rees-Mogg – who suggested last week it was ‘Boris or bust’ – will be relieved from his role as Business Secretary. Likewise, it is not certain if Anne-Marie Trevelyan will remain as Transport Secretary. We’ll know more in a couple of days, but it’s thought the Transport role will be used to bring fresh blood (aka. a junior minister) into the cabinet.
ENERGY CRISIS: It’s hard to think this was only a week ago, but the energy price guarantee (a cap on costs) Truss introduced to last for two years was last week amended by the new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. The scheme’s parameters will remain though it will now be reviewed in April. This also applies to business support – which was already going to face tougher reviews by the Treasury.
NET ZERO REVIEW: One thing that I’m certain will still go ahead is the Net Zero Review, which is being undertaken by Chris Skidmore MP. It will report later this year but, if you haven’t already, you have until Thursday to submit evidence.
SUNAK VIEWS: I have previously written about Rishi’s likely position on EVs back in the Summer (during the first leadership campaign). As I said then, 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 the current economic crisis, and with Hunt running the spreadsheets, we may see less monetary support. Though, I still expect to see him backing the net-zero agenda, especially if they want to try competing with Labour.
MORE JOBS: One specific area Rishi may wish to focus on is turning the tide of the UK’s quickly faltering automotive manufacturing sector. In only the last few weeks, we’ve seen BMW move the electric mini to China, the Oxford-based Arrival shifting production to the US, and Britishvolt continuing to run out of cash. The latter in particular, which Rishi has previously tweeted about, could be a key way to deliver 8,000 jobs to the ‘red wall’.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite the endless cries for a general election, I cannot foresee a situation where the Tories will call for one – unless they make it a hat trick and implode again. Before that, if you want to learn more about our new Prime Minister, I thoroughly recommend watching this interview of Rishi Sunak with Jimmy McLoughlin (who produces Jimmy’s Jobs). It’s a great insight into his personality.
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New statistics incoming
This Wednesday 26 October the Department for Transport will publish its latest EV charging stats for the UK. In next week’s edition, I will be producing a deep dive analysis into these latest numbers as well as publishing my second ‘Fast Charge Reliability League Table’ of rapid networks. You can read the previous one here. In the interim, what should we expect to see in the numbers? Well, judging by Zap-Map’s latest figures, it would seem Q3 2022 has the potential to be the best quarter for chargepoint installations on record. By my guess, we should expect to see an additional 2,800+ chargers registered. In reality, DfT figures tend to be a smidge lower than Zap-Map’s updates.
Latest EV news…
BOLD SPEECH: In a lecture on EV charging infrastructure last week, David Stewart, Executive Director of Markets and Mergers at the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, claimed: “the UK needs to quadruple the pace at which new public chargepoints are installed”, saying that for that to happen, “major new investment will be needed in chargepoints, as well as a significant upgrade to the electricity network”. Stewart made the remarks at the Institute of Directors as part of the ‘Beesley’ lecture series. He began by saying he was talking in a personal capacity, however, when you’re on the board of UK regulator, that doesn’t exist. Elsewhere in Stewart’s 45-minute speech, he covered many aspects of EV charging, including warning that public charging in remote areas “may never be profitable without subsidy”, and also that we could see merger controls, should one EV charging network grow larger than others. It’s a lengthy write-up, but I’d encourage anyone wanting an insight into the thoughts of the CMA to give it a read (here).
DEPARTING BRITAIN: Commercial EV maker Arrival, based in Oxford, is restructuring its business (again) as it tries to squeeze the most out of its remaining funding. Arrival said in a regulatory filing posted Thursday that it is shifting its focus to the United States and away from the UK market, where it is headquartered and where its first EV vans were supposed to be delivered. This is awful news for a trailblazing UK business. It will lead to mass job cuts across Arrival’s UK team, with many already posting updates on LinkedIn. Read more.
EAST v WEST: The boss of Stellantis has said that the West’s “naïve” push to switch consumers electric is handing Chinese car companies an easy ticket to take advantage. In a critical appeal, the CEO said: “The EU is wide open and it is not acceptable. Don’t support Chinese companies in Europe with easier rules than we’re getting there. Do you want to put your mobility in the hands of the Chinese state?” Stellantis’ CEO has called for tariffs to be put on Chinese automakers exporting into Europe. Read more.
NEW PRICES: Every little helps, and for a long time it did. Alas, Tesco’s 200 EV charging locations (run by Pod Point) will no longer be free to use from November 1 onwards. Pod Point and Tesco will introduce charges for all drivers who charger their EV at Tesco sites. Drivers using the previously free 7kW chargers will now pay 28p/kWh. The cost to use some of the rarer 22kW and 50kW Tesco devices will be charged 40p and 50p per kWh respectively. Read more.
TASER MOBILES: New research by Auto Express has found that there are currently 430 electric police vehicles on UK roads. This is based on freedom of information requests Auto Express sent to 45 police constabularies (of which 34 responded). As well as EVs, the forces boasted to have over 800 chargepoints installed at stations. Read more.
ELECTRIC ROLLS: Last week, Rolls Royce revealed details of its first-ever all-electric vehicle. The Spectre, a four-seat coupe, will come with around 320 miles of range and feature all the traditional hallmarks of Rolls Royce luxury. But… and perhaps I’m being overly cruel to a British icon…to me, the interior is a bit basic. The fact that Rolls’ PR team dedicated some five paragraphs to its lighting arrangements is telling. My favourite is the Spectre nameplate which will come surrounded by a cluster of over 5,500 LED “stars” which were “developed over the course of two years and more than 10,000 collective hours.” I’m sorry, but who is running that team? If my timesheets looked like that I’d be fired twenty times over. Someone at Rolls, if you are reading this, do the honorable thing and go and hit your boss, very hard, with a spoon. Daftness aside, I think it’s a great move Rolls has made, and they’ve obviously put a lot of effort into their first EV. Read Autocar’s summary here. The Spectre is available to buy now for £275,000 and will be delivered in Q4 2023.
NEW SITES: SSE Energy has signed a partnership with M7 Real Estate and Oxford Properties that will deliver new EV hubs with up to 12 bays each at 20 retail warehousing parks across the UK. The new spaces will have ultra-rapid charging of up to 150kW. Read more.
IN LOVE: You wouldn’t believe it, but in The Sunday Times over the weekend, petrolhead turned farmer, Jeremy Clarkson, dedicated his car column to lapping praise on the Ford F150 electric pickup truck. It’s an unlikely match seeing as he claims “I’ve always hated two things in life. Pick-up trucks and electrical power.” However, he concludes “I absolutely love it” of his time with the F150 Lightning - which has sold out in the US. Read his column, or watch my TikTok about it.
PUT OFF: Concerns over poor charging experiences, such as a lack of connectors, are putting drivers off making the switch to EVs, according to a survey by Paythru (a mobility payments provider). 54% of those polled said the biggest put-off was not being able to find a charger when required, while 31% said having to download multiple apps was. All the results of the survey were captured in Paythru’s Taming the EV Charging ‘Wild West’ white paper. Read more about it.
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