Watchdog calls for tougher EV charging oversight

The latest news from the world of EVs

Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter. 

In today’s email… the competition watchdog gets angry, Audi responds to The Fast Charge, and Waitrose is installing chargers, darling.

As ever, do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.

In the news…

ACTION REQUIRED: Big news this morning is that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set out its ideas to ensure a national network of EV chargepoints is in place ahead of the 2030 ban. The CMA started a review many moons ago after complaints largely about the old Electric Highway network run by Ecotricity. The key areas of concern for the CMA are:

  • the choice and availability of chargepoints at motorway service stations - the CMA don’t think it’s very competitive and are investigating the Electric Highway network

  • the roll-out of on-street charging by Local Authorities - CMA believe it’s happening far too slow

  • rural areas being left behind with too few chargepoints due to lack of investment - the CMA believe it’s currently a ‘postcode lottery’ and that charging deserts could be created.

The CMA has made a number of recommendations to the UK government. Most of these are pretty wishy-washy but I really back the idea of a public body getting tasked to monitor the sector - surely this can be a quick win for the government. The CMA recommends:

  1. The government should set out an ambitious National Strategy for rolling out EV charging between now and 2030

  2. Government should fire up support for local authorities to boost the roll-out of on-street charging

  3. The government must create an EV charging sector that people can trust and have confidence in, including tasking a public body with monitoring the sector as it develops to ensure charging is as simple as filling up at a fuel station

  4. The government should ensure its £950m rapid charging fund is used to foster competition and choice for motorists.

Thankfully - and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence - the government has a great defence in that it's just published its Transport Decarbonisation Plan which answers many of the CMA’s calls to action. You can read the CMA’s recommendations in full on GOV.UK.

AUDI DELAYS: In my email on Wednesday, I revealed a letter by Audi’s UK boss explaining to customers that the carmaker is facing fresh production delays. This is due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage. You can read the letter here. At the time I published the story Audi’s PR team hadn’t yet sent me a response. However, now they have. A spokesperson for Audi said:

“A significant shortage of semiconductor capacities is leading to various supply bottle-necks in many industries around the world, such as consumer electronics, computers and telecommunications. In recent months, the Volkswagen Group’s task force has been working intensely and successfully to minimize the effects of the global semiconductor bottleneck on products in the Group. Despite the chip shortage, Audi recorded the best half-year in the history of the company.”

GREEN CARS: There was a great long-read in The Times yesterday about electric cars. The article went into great detail about the reality of mass-producing EVs and their environmental impact. There were some scary facts raised in the article, such as that an estimated 75 million tonnes of acid wastewater can be produced for every tonne of rare minerals mined (like cobalt and lithium). And also that many EV owners would need to drive for tens of thousands of miles before their car becomes net zero - thanks to the high emissions used at the factory. I’m sure for a lot of people in the current EV community, articles like these are seen as a negative spin against EVs, but I believe we should never lose sight of the purpose of EVs: safeguarding our air and environment. In the long-term, as technologies improve, the future looks bright - which The Times discusses. At the moment, though, big changes will need to happen in manufacturing to make EVs as pure as they should be. Read the article here

QUALITY CHARGING: Waitrose is partnering with Shell to install 800 charging points at 100 supermarket stores by 2025. Each selected store is expected to receive six 22kW chargers and two 50kW rapid chargers. This is great for Waitrose as it could result in a rise in destination charging customers - where people juice up while they shop - but also for Shell as they charge towards their goal of installing 5,000 chargepoints by 2025. The move to install chargepoints at supermarkets is not new but is proving very successful. Tesco now has one of the nation's biggest networks through its partnership with Pod Point and VW - it’s also in my personal experience one of the easiest ones to use! Read more on Autocar.

DEUTSCHE ELEKTRIK: Perhaps it was only a matter of time but Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler has announced plans to invest more than 40 billion euros ($47 billion) by 2030 to be ready to take on Tesla in the EV dominated future. Merc plan to build 8 new battery plants and ideally be all-electric by 2030 (with every model to have an EV option by 2025). "We really want to go for it ... and be dominantly, if not all electric, by the end of the decade," Chief Executive Ola Källenius told Reuters. Read more.

BEST NETWORK: The magazine What Car? has published a list of the best and worst charging networks following a survey of almost 1000 EV owners plus their own investigation. The survey covered accessibility, charging speed, payment, reliability and value for money. The best-rated network was Tesla’s Supercharger network. That’s great news for Tesla (and bad given Elon’s recent move to open it up to other EVs) but I’m not sure it’s an entirely fair result for the other networks - given only Tesla owners can use the premium supercharger network? It’s like having a sprint race where all the entrants have sandals apart from one fella with a pair of shoes. So, let’s ignore Tesla for now. 

The real result of the survey is, therefore:

  1. Instavolt (best)

  2. Osprey

  3. Shell Recharge

  4. PodPoint

  5. Gridserve Electric Highway

  6. BP Pulse

  7. Ionity

  8. Engie

  9. Charge Place Scotland

  10. Genie Point

  11. Charge Your Car (worst)

I think this is a pretty fair representation. However, I do feel sorry for Gridserve down in the middle. They are only just getting up to speed and I reckon in a years time they’ll be up the board. Read the full survey here.

HELP! Speaking of charging networks, I’m starting to find the millions of RFID cards that come with chargepoint subscriptions really annoying. I discovered yesterday that I’ve lost my Instavolt card and it’s really cheesed me off. If anyone knows a way of adding them to your Apple Wallet etc. please do email me! I have thus far tried and failed!

By Tom Riley