Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name’s Tom Riley.
In the email today… big news that global sales have hit a new high, the BBC being positive, and a used car salesman being negative.
Do drop me an email at email@example.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.
In the news…
NEARLY 400K: According to the EV Sales Blog, worldwide plug-in electric car sales increased in April by 249% year-on-year to over 392,000 - a whopping amount. In terms of best selling models for April, top of the list was (again) the Wuling's Hong Guang MINI EV - that absolutely tiny Chinese car. It’s just staggering how popular it is. The Wuling Mini EV was sold 29,251 times last month. The nearest competitor (the very popular Tesla Model Y) only sold 16,232. Interestingly, in fourth place is the Volkswagen ID.4. It sold over 10,000 models last month - nearly double the amount of ID.3s. It just shows the continuing demand for SUVs in the West - meanwhile, over in China, they all want a Little Tikes car. Read more.
TAX ON FLATS: Last week was not a great one for the British EV community. Following a statement put out by HMRC confirming 20% VAT on all public charging, both Instavolt and now Osprey will be increasing their prices. It’s believed both had been using a different interpretation of the VAT rules to only charge a reduced 5% rate (read my previous post on this to learn more). On the change, Instavolt’s CEO said: “Increasing the cost of charging to EV drivers through VAT just feels wrong.” Osprey has now written to customers saying, initially, prices will only rise for the network’s non-pay-as-you-go customers - they will front the VAT for the subscription customers, for now. Though other networks, such as Ubitiricty, have been applying 20% throughout, it doesn’t change the fact that this is an infantile rule. It’s just a tax on people without driveways (which is around a third of households in the UK). Surely if the government wants more people to adopt EVs they should rethink it.
POSTMAN ZAP: The Royal Mail delivered some nice news last week. It seems their Bristol centre has replaced its 23 diesel vans with EVs. The new all-electric vans have a bigger load space than the vans they previously owned, giving them the additional capacity to deal with growing parcel volumes. The electric van also is expected to have lower maintenance requirements. Read more.
BOOSTER VAN: Speaking of maintenance, the RAC has announced it is rolling out hundreds of more vans capable of supporting electric cars. Previously, the RAC has worked with the specialist engineering company Original ADS to develop a compact van-mounted charger capable of giving ‘flat’ EVs some extra juice. These compact chargers can provide about 3.5kW but they have now created a new product that can do 5kW. By the end of 2022, one in every five RAC patrol vans will be able to give electric vehicles an emergency roadside boost. Let’s hope that by 2022 such support isn’t needed as much.
BUT: I’m still rather fascinated by the American company SparkCharge and its portable fast charger (called The Roadie). Their portable charger can supply speeds of up to 14kW - about 4 times faster than the RAC tech. However, one assumes The Roadie is a bit more spenny.
ALSO: SparkCharge is due to unveil “the next generation of mobile charging” this Thursday 3 June (which they have dubbed SparkDay).
NEGATIVE SPIN: John Collingridge of The Sunday Times, who last week complained in a column about driving a borrowed Nissan Leaf, wrote a very long story for the weekend about electric vehicles. Specifically, much of it was dedicated to highlighting the lacking progress being made in building charging infrastructure. Though the story had some balanced facts, such as highlighting charging deserts across the UK plus that there are 24,000 public chargers versus circa 180,000 home points, it did all seem to have a slightly negative spin. It began, for example, with a quote from a used car salesman who said: “Everybody I know who’s ever bought an electric car, they’ve lasted one or two months and chucked it away and gone back to petrol or diesel.” If that were true, which it obviously isn’t, he’s evidently missing a huge trick selling people two cars in two months. Anyhow, later in the story, there is hope from the likes of Instavolt’s CEO who highlights how the tide is turning to EV - and that the infrastructure is following and demand from private enterprise for chargers is increasing. You can read the full story here.
POSITIVE SPIN: With a more positive approach, the BBC’s chief environment journo has this morning produced a write-up on ‘why electric cars will take over sooner than you think?’. The article doesn’t reveal much in terms of ‘news’ but what it does is convey great enthusiasm for the advances happening in motoring. “We are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford's first production line started turning back in 1913.” Honestly, who doesn’t read stuff like that and get excited? In the article, the BBC have suggested that EV sales are at a tipping point on the ‘S’ curve. The S curve is what most great technological innovations have been on throughout history, such as the original car, mobile phones and the internet. At the start of the curve, only a few buy them because of the expense and suspicions, but then as prices get cheaper you can experience exponential growth. Exciting! Read it here.
CHARGED SAVINGS: According to research by Halfords, EV drivers will save an average of just £100 after three years compared to the petrol version of the same vehicles. Among the biggest savings after three years were £800 for those who bought the electric Mini Cooper Classic and £1,650 for a BMW i3. The research seems to have been given directly to the Daily Telegraph who have printed a rather sassy spin on their analysis - they highlight the high costs of buying an EV in the first place in addition to the ‘only’ £100 of savings. However, it’s worth remembering that while EVs are more expensive right now, it is expected they will cost no different to petrol-powered cars within about five years. Not to mention helping us have cleaner air. Read more.
REUSED LITHIUM: As EV sales get ready to hit the turbo button, we can probably expect to see a lot more used EVs hitting the market in about 2 years. With that growth, not only does the industry need to ensure people are comfortable using a used EV; but, it also needs to ensure much better ways to recycle old EV batteries. At the moment barely any of the key ingredient - and limited resource - lithium is recycled worldwide (only around 5% of lithium-ion batteries are reused). National Geographic has published a good story highlighting the challenge, but also some interesting advances which might make recycling more efficient. Worth a read!
ELECTRIC AMBITION: Britishvolt, the battery start-up which is building a gigafactory in Northumberland, has hired the chairman of Ford of Britain, Graham Hoare, to become president of global operations. Britisvolt is on track to start production of batteries from 2023 but has great ambitions for expansion in the future. According to Hoare, they want to not only supply Britain but the whole of Europe. This is no doubt very doable as apparently Britshvolt’s battery plant will be able to feed 300,000 EVs per year. Read more on Autocar.
By Tom Riley