Gridserve and the Electric Highway
The top story this week has to be the announcement that Gridserve (the company behind the Electric Forecourt concept) has bought a stake in Ecotricity’s Electric Highway (Note Dale Vince - chairman of Ecotricity - was keen to make sure people knew it was the Electric Highway they were buying into NOT Ecotricity itself). The deal gives Gridserve 25% of the Electric Highway and they will end up replacing the current EH DBT units at the motorway service areas in the UK with new ABB 50kW, three-headed units. These units will all be contactless, have CCS, AC and Chademo charging and be able to charge two vehicles at once. I would imagine this is limited to the choice of one DC and one AC charge rather than two DC charges at the same time. This means you can charge your new Porsche Taycan on the same unit as a ‘classic’ Renault Zoe.
Furthermore - and this is the more important bit - EH/ Gridserve will also get to install an additional 6 - 12 high powered units at each MSA.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that Ecotricity already has planning applications out there for additional HPC units at Pease Pottage, Stafford, Reading, and Heston motorway service areas. Dale Vince has indicated that at the newly built Rugby Services (on the M6, J1) there are spaces ready for 12 HPCs right next to the 12 Tesla Superchargers which have already been installed. BP is also putting two 150kW units at the BP petrol station there. (That’s 26 HPCs at one location!)
What’s good about this announcement is this: It makes long-distance driving on motorways something far less stressful than it previously was. I recently did a trip along the M4 and needed to stop and recharge. I passed three service stations with Ecotricity chargers in them and chose, instead, to go off-motorway and use a bp Pulse HPC about 4 minutes from the junction. Why did I do that? I could quite easily have used the Ecotricity units as I drive a Kia Soul with Chademo. The reason was three-fold. Firstly I didn’t have the Ecotricity app installed on my phone. I would need that to initiate the charge (at 30p/kWh) as the Ecotricity units are not contactless-enabled. Secondly, of the 7 chargers I passed on the way to my destination (at three locations), four of them were out of action according to Zap-Map. Thirdly the DBT units currently installed at the services are very slow at charging. With the bp Pulse units, I could get almost 48kW on my Kia Soul but the DBTs tend to hover around 35/40 kW. Once the new units are in all these issues go away: Reliability improves, payment is contactless, and the charge speeds are higher.
Overall this is very good for EV drivers. The funding from the government should - if common sense prevails - be used to upgrade the grid connection to the services. This opens up lots of possibilities. I don’t know for sure but it would not surprise me if the government opened the MSAs up to bids from all CPOs. There might be certain CPOs allocated to certain MSAs (perhaps Osprey Charging at Leicester Forest East and bp Pulse at Watford Gap?), or there could be multiple CPOs at one location. Imagine arriving at Knutsford Services, say, on the M6 to find 6 Ecotricity HPCs, 12 Tesla Superchargers, 4 Instavolts, 4 Osprey Chargers and 4 bp Pulse units at the garage there.
EV Ownership in the UK rises by 53% in 2020
It’s always encouraging to see more EVs on the road
. With the UK government’s proposed 2030 ban on the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles, it is going to become more and more of the norm. We are around 3000 days from that becoming a reality and - in terms of the sales profile for new cars - it’s hardly surprising that sales are increasing.
The number of battery electric vehicles in private hands in the UK rose by nearly 30,000 in the 12 months to September 2020, an increase of 53% on the year before, with more than a third of these (36%) in London and the South East of England, RAC analysis of the latest official government data shows.
The increases mean that almost exactly half of all BEVs in the UK – 86,130 vehicles – were licensed by private individuals as of the end of the third quarter of 2020
“Recent RAC research shows a growing number of UK drivers are planning on switching to an electric vehicle next time they change their cars – up from 3% in 2018 to 9% in 2020. But despite this, most (78%) still think that pure electric cars are too expensive compared to conventionally fuelled vehicles, prompting around half (53%) to say they’d like to see VAT on new electric cars either being cut or abolished entirely.“
The adoption of BEVs is definitely continuing apace. This is particularly noticeable with private cars (50% of new BEVs were private purchases) They key barrier is the cost but as this continues to decrease we see that adoption rates are rising.
The thought of removing VAT on new EVs is an intriguing one but the cost of this will need to be recouped elsewhere. With fuel duty being lost as well this will put a burden on the Exchequer.
The Three Big Problems with Hydrogen Hype
Numerous pundits around the world believe that hydrogen is the fuel of the future. It’s easy to see why. The promise of longer-range EVs with rapid fuelling and an infrastructure similar to petrol and diesel plays very nicely into the fossil fuel narrative.
The three points the article makes are, basically:
- The Hydrogen Hype is a money grab with Fossil Fuel companies using subsidies that could be given to renewables instead.
- Investors are being duped into thinking they’re getting something ‘different’ when, in fact, they’re part of the greenwashing initiative to look good but do nothing.
- The customer is being duped into accepting the fossil fuel narrative when it isn’t the optimal solution for the energy that is being used.
This links in nicely to my general thinking on Hydrogen: There are definitely places to use it and applications for it. But the hype that surrounds it cannot be explained by its proposed better value proposition. It is more expensive to make and to buy. It needs far more robust, and heavy, hardware to use. It has a limited lifespan due to hydrogen embrittlement
The only genuine advantage that hydrogen supporters can suggest over and above a BEV is that the act of adding range to the vehicle can be quicker than charging a battery. Even then that’s not guaranteed as every hydrogen pump needs to recharge and repressurise (for 20 minutes) after about every fourth charge. Plus, if the units are broken or empty (as is the case at the moment in California
and a chunk of the UK) the wait can be much, longer. That’s one of the reasons car pundit James May is selling his Toyota Mirai
On the other hand, while BEVs can take an hour or so to recharge, the number of times you actually have to do this is limited. I rarely spend more than 15 minutes on a charger. I recently charged at a bp Pulse charger near Swindon and spent a shorter time there than two guys in an Audi parked next to me who were fueling and getting food. It’s all part of the fossil fuel narrative.
UK Government’s Electric Car Grants Effectiveness in Doubt by New Report
The effectiveness of the government’s grants for electric vehicle buyers has been called into question by a new report
. The National Audit Office (NAO) document claims the Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles (OZEV) has failed to prove the impact of the scheme, which has cost taxpayers £1 billion so far.
This is a slightly misleading headline, I believe. The headline reads that the £1b has been wasted. But giving that mass adoption of EVs is very close to happening I can say that this is probably something that is not entirely accurate.
However, what the National Audit Office is saying is that there isn’t a direct correlation between the money spent by OZEV and a reduction in carbon output in the UK. This is accurate. But is that what OZEV was set up to do? Or is that an implied benefit of what OZEV does?
Plus there doesn’t appear to be any indication of other factors that may have increased the carbon emissions and whether they are within the remit of OZEV.
Comparing Companies – Toyota and Tesla
The paper itself appears - on the surface - to be a well-researched document pointing out several areas where Toyota has done well and Tesla has failed. But when you dig a little deeper the details don’t hold up under scrutiny.
For example: ”Toyota is way ahead of its competition. It currently offers 36 electrified vehicle models in 90 countries around the world, and within the next five years, it wants to launch 40 new or updated vehicles“. Toyota is the king of the ‘Self-Charging Hybrid’. The vast majority of its vehicles are petrol cars running small hybrid batteries. This is not environmentally friendly.
In contrast, for example, Tesla gets a ding because ‘the company failed to prevent child labour in its supply chain for cobalt sourcing in Congo’ - something which also applies to the same batteries in the hybrids that Toyota source. (Just for clarification, child labour makes up a very small percentage of the mining in the Congo, is being dealt, with AND Tesla is now sourcing ethically-mined cobalt for its batteries which need less and less of the mineral anyway.)
This article is incredibly short-sighted and full of FUD.
The basic hypothesis is that a company like Toyota - which has, so far, avoided any electrification, pushed the ‘Self Charging Hybrid’ myth, and persuaded thousands of people to buy fossil-fuel burning vehicles on the understanding they are ‘eco friendly’ - is a better investment strategy than Tesla - which has produced hundreds and thousands of pure electric vehicles, pushed forward the tech, and dragged numerous other legacy manufacturers kicking and screaming out of the fossil-fuel dark ages. But the fact that some of their batteries used child-mined cobalt means they are a bad investment.
If you’re with Triodos it might be time to review what they’re doing with your money.