Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the newsletter that will plug you into the latest in electric motoring. My name is Tom Riley and I’ll be your host.
We’ve got quite a lot of news about charging points today which is fast becoming a new sort of gold rush. And then some good news in my in-depth story, there is finally a way to make the electric supercar of your dreams.
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In the news…
OLD LEAF: The OG electric car manufacturer, Nissan, has announced a special version of its Leaf model in Europe. Its called the Leaf10, to celebrate 10 years of the first mass-market electric car. Apart from some slightly different design features, the new model will be much like every other Leaf. Although, it will come with ‘Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention’ which does sound very intriguing. Interestingly, the Leaf is increasingly popular with Uber drivers. I wonder if that feature was requested.
SHOWING OFF: Lexus has teased the world with another picture (below) of their upcoming electric SUV. You can’t tell much by the photo but it looks like the roof is bubbled on either side. This is a trick used on some vehicles through history, apparently, it can be aerodynamic. However, despite the fast looks, Lexus has said the car and its performance is being designed for “quietness and comfort.”
RAPID GROWTH: According to the EV charging point map, Zap-Map, the UK now has 4,000 rapid chargers installed. That’s an increase from 2,900 a year ago. A tremendous achievement. Most rapid chargers are capable of charging the average EV from zero to 80% charge in well under an hour. However, while good news, there is further to go and rapid charging points are only one piece of the puzzle. Autocar this week suggested some 1.5 million public charging points would be needed in Britain alone by 2030.
ELECTRIC RUSH: This demand for charging points is making some businesses very valuable. Only last week the street-lamp company, Ubitiricty, was snapped up by Shell. This week, the home charging point startup WallBox received a whopping €33 million of new investment. Companies like this have been fired up by the recent news that not only is Europe making the switch over but so too is the USA.
MORE POUNDS: And it seems the investment into charging point providers is definitely going to be rewarded. Only this morning, the UK’s Department of Transport has announced a new £20 million cash injection to boost the number of on-street electric vehicle charge points in towns and cities. Although, the Policy Exchange think tank has said the UK is starting to lag. It believes the annual rate at which charging stations are being installed must increase from about 7,000 over the past three years to 35,000 over the next decade. Read more.
PERSUASIVE WORDS: Despite only announcing the 2030 ICE ban in November, the UK Government has actually been testing people’s receptiveness to EV messages since March 2020. In a new transparency report on behaviour change, the government has revealed that it has been testing the best phrases to make people take action to get an EV. The trial ran for 130 days and tracked the actions and responses of over 4.2 million users who were renewing vehicle tax online. The messages which caused people to take the most action were:
The Government are consulting on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans by 2035 or earlier. Are you ready? Make your next car electric.
Join the 6,000 new drivers every month who make the switch to an electric vehicle. Make your next car electric.
Between 28,000 and 36,000 people die every year as a result of air pollution. What you drive makes a difference. Make your next car electric.
And the worst performing messages were:
Rapid charge points for electric vehicles are available at almost all motorway service stations in the UK. Make your next car electric.
Charging your electric vehicle at home can be as easy as charging your phone overnight. Make your next car electric
Fully electric vehicles could cost from as little as 1p per mile to run – less than a quarter of the cost of the most fuel-efficient petrol or diesel vehicles. Make your next car electric.
The phrase which included ‘are you ready?’ took the crown, so you may well see it again if in the UK. And if you reckon you’ve seen similar wording before, you probably have. It’s also a key phrase in the UK’s Brexit messaging.
Make your own electric supercar
While watching the absolutely epic film Le Mans ‘66 recently, I was in awe that only 50 or so years ago guys and gals were able to use hammers for more than just a weapon.
The cars from that era, like the Ford GT40, were both technically brilliant but also wrapped up in metal dresses more seductive than Kendal Jenner at a foam party.
Nowadays, the level of technical skill needed to make and mend motors is rare. It’s a skill only really practiced by shed owners, street thieves and James May. But that could be about to change.
A new enterprise called the Watt Electric Vehicle Company in Cornwall - an area perhaps better known for sandy shoes and sea shanties - has come up with an exciting idea to lower the costs of developing EVs.
In short, they’ve created a platform - or a motorised chassis in Roman Catholic - where all you need to add is a custom body. The platform (pictured below) comes with a rear-mounted electric motor available in two power outputs.
According to their website, the platform features “50:50 weight distribution, a kerb weight of less than 1,000kg and a communicative chassis exhibiting carefully-honed ride, handling and steering characteristic.”
The dream is that this off-the-shelf solution will mean more small and mid-sized companies, who may have been alarmed at having to spend millions establishing their own EV platform, have had the barriers lowered.
How fast the ‘base’ model they’ve created will go is yet to be seen, however, it’s certainly no toy. They have confirmed that the vehicle has the potential to go 230 miles, which by any EV standards is a long way. More details will be available soon about the motor’s specifications.
So far the company has demonstrated its tech by creating an electric coupe inspired by the classic Porsche 356 sports car. It’s not my preferred classic car but it certainly is amazing they’ve managed to recreate it.
The company also expects its platform to be popular with commercial vehicle producers. With the ever-rising need for electric vans and buses, a system like this could be valuable.
I’ve written before about the potential rise in micro manufacturers from this switch to electrics, and this is the first time I’ve read EV news which is not only interesting but has set alight the hope in my heart for a new wave of classics.
As ICE cars became more readily available around the world from mass manufacturing, the demand for niche and luxury vehicles followed. And it was really the latter that caused millions of people to fall head over heels in love with cars.
While there will always be a babble of people who will never love EVs, perhaps innovations like this will help switch at least some of these folk while also entertaining those of us already at peace. Likewise, if it can inspire the next Carroll Shelbys of this world, that would be tremendous. I certainly have already found myself doodling supercar drawings on my notepad.
By Tom Riley