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Issue #51 - Gas boiler ban, floating wind turbines, e-fuels make no sense, and Instavolt VAT woes.

The EV Musings Newsletter
Issue #51 - Gas boiler ban, floating wind turbines, e-fuels make no sense, and Instavolt VAT woes.
By Gary Comerford • Issue #51 • View online
Another interesting week in the world of EVs and renewables.
The main story this week is that HMRC has finally caught up with the Instavolt 5% VAT issue. Basically, all electricity in the UK is Vatable. The standard rate for electricity is 20%. However if the electricity is for domestic and residential use or for non-business use by a charity, the rate can be 5%. That’s why electricity at your house is only at 5%. bp Pulse, Osprey Charging, Podpoint and others have always charged the full 20% VAT on their charges as public fast/rapid charging isn’t, by definition, domestic and residential. But Instavolt has steadfastly maintained a 5% rate. Now, it seems, HMRC has finally issued them a letter informing them of their error and asking them to charge the full 20%. However what they have chosen to do - in a move which will anger many - is to add the extra VAT onto the existing price of a kWh of electricity thereby upping the price to 39p/ kWh. As many commenters have noted on social media, this is pushing their pricing up into fossil fuel territory (it isn’t, but that’s what the narrative will be).
I await, with interest, the news that Shell Recharge have also upped their prices in line with the increase in VAT from 5% to 20%. That will push them over 40p/kWh and make them one of the most expensive in the market.

This Week's Podcast.
The EV Musings Podcast: 90 - The ID.3 Episode
Top Five EV/ Renewable Stories.
Climate Change: Ban All Gas Boilers From 2025 to Reach Net-Zero
The list itself is fairly straightforward and doesn’t contain anything which people didn’t already know about. But knowing about them and doing something about them are completely different things.
Moving everybody off fossil boilers within 4 years is a stretch. But the technology is there. As with a lot of the things on this list it needs political will to make it happen. Governments (at the country, regional and city level) have mandated a ban on new fossil fuel vehicle sales in numerous places. They need to continue this push and make sure things like solar panels, batteries and EV charge points are mandated for new builds, planning permission for wind and solar farms is made a lot easier and obstacles to adoption are removed.
We have the solutions. We need political will.
One Floating Wind Turbine Good, Two Floating Wind Turbines Better
Wind turbines are something of the holy grail when it comes to renewable energy. They can be situated pretty much anywhere there is land - or even right on the water, they work regardless of whether the sun is shining or not, and they produce cheap renewable energy.
Offshore wind is deemed to be the cheapest of the cheap sources of wind and in places such as the North Sea and the Atlantic seaboard of the US these huge turbines are safely ensconced. But out in the much deeper areas of the Pacific Ocean, there are issues with attaching them to the ground. This is where the idea of floating wind turbines has come in.
Hexicon has come up with a solution that allows two turbines to be linked together on one floating platform without reducing the efficiency of either one (Turbines need to be a certain distance apart to ensure the turbulent air from one doesn’t affect the efficiency of another.)
The stats look quite good. The Hexicon solution allows two turbines to be colocated on a single platform, produce 75% more electricity per given area than single turbines and reduce the cable requirements by 75%
‘Holy Grail’ Battery Breakthrough Sees Scientists Solve 40-Year Problem
The breakthrough involves harnessing the power of lithium-metal batteries, which are capable of holding substantially more energy and charge in a fraction of the time compared to lithium-ion batteries that are currently used in everything from smartphones to Tesla vehicles. The development, made by a team at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), allows this next-generation battery to be charged and discharge at least 10,000 times, which would increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of their gasoline counterparts – while simultaneously increasing their range and reducing their charge time.
As with a lot of battery tech ‘breakthroughs’ this will need to be taken with a pinch of salt. What works at a theoretical level might not work at a practical level. What works at a practical level in the lab might not work when scaled up. What can be scaled up easily might not be scaled up cheaply.
But at first glance, this seems like something to be hopeful about.
Tesla Cofounder JB Straubel: “The Largest Lithium Mine Could Be in the Junk Drawers of America.”
When it comes to batteries, recycling is a must. The raw materials that go into batteries come from all over the world, and the long supply chain — mining, refining, and transport — is far from green. In fact, the process of obtaining raw materials and transforming them into battery cells is believed to account for the majority of the ecological footprint of manufacturing an electric vehicle. Batteries also represent the largest cost component of an EV, so reducing costs through recycling could be an important factor in bringing EV prices down. The kicker is that supplies of raw materials for battery cells are tight, and could prove to be a major bottleneck over the next few years.
Tesla co-founder and former CTO JB Straubel understands this problem well, and he started Redwood Materials in 2017 to do something about it. The company recycles end-of-life batteries, extracts the raw materials, and supplies them to battery-makers to be made into new cells.
The whole area of battery recycling is one with a great amount of potential. We know that there are literally hundreds of tonnes of old batteries sitting around in the junk drawers of households who haven’t traded in their old phones, Kindles, e-readers, tablets etc.
‘Mining’ these drawers for the elements needed for new EV batteries is something which is rapidly becoming feasible and cost-effective.
Why E-Fuels in Cars Make No Economic or Environmental Sense
With the review of the EU CO₂ emissions standards for cars and vans scheduled for June 2021, some, notably the oil and gas industry and automotive suppliers, are advocating adding CO₂ credits for advanced biofuels and synthetic fuels into the vehicle standards. T&E’s new analysis shows why this is not credible — neither from an environmental nor from an economic point of view.
There seems to be a faction of society that wants to replace fossil fuels with e-fuels. In reality, fossil fuels and efuels differ only in the source of the energy used to create them. Fossil fuels are mined or dug up. Efuels are hydrocarbons created artificially using renewable energy.
But analysis indicates that they are not quite as good as they were first thought. One of the prime reasons - like hydrogen - is that they use vastly more electricity to produce a mile or km of distance travelled than the associated battery electric vehicle.
A cool EV or renewable thing
Charge Point Operator Instavolt has teamed up with the Automobile Association (The AA) to provide customer support for its users.
Pretty much all CPOs have a dedicated customer service line to call when you have an issue with a charger. (We won’t go into the issue of why we NEED a dedicated customer support line when you never have one at petrol stations, that’s another story).
The majority of these customer service lines are supported by, and run by, the CPOs themselves. Some of them are great, others… not so great. Your mileage may vary.
But Instavolt has announced recently that they are handing over the customer service function to the AA in the UK. Instavolt have 600 chargers nationwide - all at popular locations with on-site amenities including McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks. Support for issues at any of these units will be provided by the AA via a dedicated support number
The AA customer service team will be able to resolve common charging queries; direct customers to InstaVolt charging stations and help with account or payment queries.
From personal experience, this will be a relatively small part of the AA telephone support function as Instavolt chargers tend to be the more reliable units on the market and rarely have issues - although I did note that one was refusing contactless payments at one unit recently…
Do we think this might be something other CPOs will follow? Not sure.
But anything that improves the charging experience is to be welcomed.
Something To Think About.
Finally...
Next week will be a fun topic on the podcast. We’re looking at charging hubs. In particular, we’re looking at rapid charging hubs. How many are there in the UK? (Hint: more than you think), and how many are coming? (Hint: Waaaaay more than you think.) If you’re an EV Musings patron you can listen to this on Sunday evening, otherwise, it goes out to the rest of the world on Monday at 5 pm BST
The Mystery Box. Click for a surprise!
The Mystery Box. Click for a surprise!
Did you enjoy this issue?
Gary Comerford

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