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Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
In today’s edition… North Sea oil being used in EV batteries, a win at the car park, and all the auto Super Bowl adverts.
If you have any questions or comments, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the last week…
COKED UP: Ed Conway, the Economics Editor at Sky News, has pulled together a truly fascinating report looking at EV capability in the UK. Not from the point of view of cars, but all about the material production (from getting lithium out the ground to building enough gigfactory capacity). Using data from the Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, which is also coincidentally being used by BEIS for their estimates, he revealed that as a country we could fall very short on our production ability for batteries. The impact of which is that we may lose out on car production to other countries where it makes sense for manufacturers. HOWEVER, the truly insightful part of Ed’s write-up is that he spotlights Humberside Refinery. On the face of it, you’d associate that with fossil fuels, and you’d be right. But Ed explains how the refinery is one of the global leaders for producing synthetic graphite, a critical component for producing EV batteries. But it relies on North Sea oil to make the ‘graphite coke’. And it’s shipped all the way back to China where it goes in their batteries that in turn comes back to the West. It’s a truly mental story, certainly surprised me. You can read it on Sky (there is also a video report). It’s a huge article but worth the read.
NEW MONEY: Speaking of gigafactories, this morning Britishvolt has received renewed investment of £200m in its latest funding round, including a promised £40m from the huge miner Glencore – a lot larger than previous. Read more.
GRID BATTERY: A new trial by the National Grid with Octopus Energy will test out whether homes could run on EV batteries. The pilot of 135 households will aim to understand if EVs can be used to balance the grid. In theory, this would be very helpful, as EVs have such huge batteries they could give back energy during peak times – when normally cars are idle on driveways – and then charge back up during the night. On the flip side, during the night, often renewable energy sources such as wind turbines produce more electricity but, right now, storage is a problem. With improved vehicle-to-grid infrastructure this electricity could be stored in cars before being taken out again. Read more. This story is linked to a wider energy story that the National Grid and Octopus are running a large trial with smart-meter households to see if, with the offer of free electricity, people will reduce the electricity usage during peak hours. Learn more.
FREE PARKING: A bit of news that you might have missed, new rules being brought in for England, Scotland and Wales will see private car park fines capped at £50 – down from £100 now. The BBC have a good article explaining the news rules. It’s great news for EV drivers who often report getting caught out while charging up in public – like I was once in Wells Tesco.
ITS WAR: As the number of people with EVs increases, it’s perhaps only to be expected that there might be a few tiffs and arguments at chargepoints from now and into the future. Especially if not enough are being built in busy areas. A story in The Driven last week highlighted just a few amusing cases in the UK where arguments have broken out. Often there are disagreements at chargers over wait times and the etiquette of ‘un-plugging’ someone. As a rule, it’s said that if the EV isn’t lit up (aka. it’s not being charged) you should be able to unplug it. However, it doesn’t always go down well. “Got threatened with murder when I unplugged an i3 at 100%,” said the EV YouTuber Felix Arthur. Golly! Read more.
FAKE MANUAL: In recent weeks, Toyota has allegedly patented a new technology that will simulate a manual gearbox experience for an electric motor. This will mean EV owners with nostalgia can continue to use a clutch and gearstick just as in the olden days. The motor is being designed so at each gear the power will be limited, so you’ll have to move up them to get the most power. However, EVs are silent, so unless they will be adding in rev noises through the speaker, I can’t imagine it will be fun just constantly looking at your rev counter. Read more.
OIL PRICES: There’s been lots of media coverage over the last 24 hours about petrol prices hitting record highs over the weekend. According to the AA, the average litre went to 148.02p. And with fears in Ukraine continuing, those could get worse before they get better. And it’s important they do get better. As even though it’s great news that people at kitchen tables around the UK will probably be going ‘maybe our next car should be an EV?’, the simple truth is the market is not ready yet for everyone to adopt. Aka. all the petrol prices rise are doing is causing pain for households. According to AA research, 53% of lower-income motorists have cut back on car use, other spending, or both to cope. Read more.
ELECTRIC PRICES: Following on from petrol rises, as we get ready for the energy price cap rise, there are more stories floating about how the cost of EV ownership is set to rise by up to £200 per year. Such as this scaremongering MailOnline story. Albeit, even they admit you “are still £550 financially better off running an electric car over a comparable petrol model.”
EV SHOW: You may recall a couple of weeks ago that I highlighted that Channel 5 was producing a new show about EVs. I originally spoke to a researcher but have since spoken to the director. As expected, I imagine it will very much be ‘these are great, but challenges remain’ sort of programmes. But fear not, yours truly is now also being interviewed for it next Tuesday. I’m providing a first-person view of ownership while also owning a flat.
URBAN TRAVEL: Just a little note, it seems the biggest e-scooter platforms in Europe (Tier, Bolt, Bird, Lime, Voi, Dott) have joined together to form a new lobby group called Micromobility for Europe. The aim of the group will be to campaign for better ‘urban transport ecosystems’. See their website here. This news comes as, over here in blighty, the Sunday Times found that there are estimated to be nearly 1 million private e-scooters in the UK. As the temperatures warm, we can expect to see more of them on the road. Read more.
TURN OFF: As you may have noticed, I don’t often highlight news about autonomous vehicles or flying cars and the like. Two reasons, firstly they are both ideas that aspire to take away driving from individuals. And for me, the ability to move individually at great distance anywhere in the world is one of the pinnacles of our civilisation. Secondly, because it’s always seemed a very long way off. But, I’ve read two stories this week proving that wrong. Numero uno, last week the Urban Air Port company started building its first ‘hub’ in Coventry. Numero dos, apparently there’s an autonomous car ‘frenzy’ happening in China. Investors and the Chinese state are pouring billions ($8.5bn) into making it happen, and ideally before anyone else. There are lots of reasons why, but TechCrunch observe that challenges such as a growing ageing population will have on transport. Which is a great point.
TURN ON: I’ll be honest, I’ve never understood the world’s fascination with the DeLorean. To me, it’s like the automotive equivalent of the film Cocktail. People saw it once then never again. It’s just a bit too foppish and Hollywood for the everyday, which is why they now only appear as the token “oh look it’s that one from back to the future!” at car shows. So, obviously, it makes sense that like a lot of other carmakers, the company behind it, DeLorean Motor Company, are bringing it back for the electric era. However, the new model is going to look a little different. And this is exciting. Because, if we’re being truthful, there has to date only been a few genuinely good-looking EVs created (in my mind that’s the Lotus Evija, Audi E-tron GT, and the Pininfarina Battista). Therefore, there’s a huge opportunity for DeLorean to deliver something truly mouth-watering. And if the teaser trailer is anything to go by, I pray it will look like this very popular tribute design (below) created last year.
The weekend saw the annual American Super Bowl and a chance for the world’s automakers to use the mega-TV event to promote their EV creations. Some of the adverts were decent and I’ve collated a list of them below. President Biden even tweeted about them. I’ve put them in my order of best to worst.
General Motors, featuring Mike Myers as Dr Evil
BMW iX, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Zeus
Hyundai Ioniq 5, featuring Jason Bateman
Polestar, featuring major sass attacks on VW and Tesla
Kia EV6, featuring Sam Page and a robot dog
Chevy Silverado, featuring The Sopranos*
*perhaps a good thing, but the Chevy won’t come to the UK.
By Tom Riley