In the wake of Britishvolt demise industry experts unite to underscore need for clear UK electric vehicle policy to ramp up affordability – Net Zero is a MUST!

Posted on 31 Jan 2023 by The Manufacturer

Clear and present policy, alongside private and public collaboration, is essential for not only a successful energy transition but also to keep improving the affordability of electric vehicles and maintain the positive trajectory of EV adoption in motion, industry experts including Dr Andy Palmer [Chairman of European battery cell developer, Inobat], Quentin Willson [Founder of FairCharge] and Fiona Howarth, [CEO of Octopus EV].

Following the sad news of the demise of the UK’s first battery champion, Britishvolt, now is not the time to allow agendas to slow excellent progress already made.

As headlines continue to paint a somewhat murky picture of EVs and their affordability many voices in the industry have countered with solutions and positivity. All grounded in facts, rather than hearsay and conjecture.

Dr Andy Palmer, Chairman of European battery cell developer, Inobat: “There’s a lot of push back at moment around EVs in the media, with a strong focus on affordability. Looking at the Moores Curve equation, mass production of batteries, and therefore EVs, will ultimately drive price points down. This is why we need domestic battery cell production. Another point I would like to make is, the focus on bigger batteries. The reality is most people need smaller batteries, they don’t drive 300+ miles regularly, and this will likely become a trend as we continue to ramp up adoption. Smaller batteries mean lower costs and therefore improved affordability.”

Headlines have been awash with clickbait that all EV charging is now more expensive than filling up with a tank of petrol or diesel. This is not backed by facts. A recent report from highlighted this is incorrect:

Fiona Howarth, CEO, Octopus Electric Vehicles: “The EV market is growing rapidly – with a typical British driver able to save over £1,000 a year by charging at home instead of filling up with petrol; and drivers saving up to 40% on their monthly lease costs via employee benefit schemes. However, with less than 5% of UK cars being fully electric today, the benefits are available to just a few. With average lead times of nine [9] months, we need a firm signal to car makers to deliver high volumes of clean cars to the UK now.

“And with such a rapid global transition, there’s a unique opportunity for job creation in the future auto industry. The US has recently set the bar with their “Inflation Reduction Act”, securing impressive incentives for local battery production – giving us a blueprint on how to attract manufacturers and investors, creating jobs for the longer term.”

Quentin Willson, Founder of FairCharge: “While the media constantly obsesses on the costs of public charging, they forget to mention that 80% of EV owners charge at home using low-rate night-time tariffs. The reality is that for the vast majority of EV drivers home charging makes it significantly cheaper than fuelling a combustion car. The authors who write these anti-EV pieces clearly don’t drive or own EVs, otherwise this glaring omission would be obvious. Can we have some balance please?”

UK car production declined -9.8% in 2022 to 775,014 units, according to the latest figures issued today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, bucking the trend, UK factories turned out a record 234,066 battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) electric vehicles, with combined volumes up 4.5% year-on-year to represent almost a third (30.2%) of all car production. Total BEV production rose 4.8%, with hybrid volumes up 4.3%, and boosting output of these vehicles will be critical in the attainment of net zero, for both the UK and major overseas markets.

The figures come as fresh SMMT analysis confirms the increasingly important role of electrified vehicle production to the UK economy.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Professor Colin Herron CBE. PhD. MSc. MIET, Faraday Institution North East office, North East Battery Alliance, Newcastle University: “Back when I first test drove a Nissan Leaf in 2009, brands such as Tesla and NIO were unknown, charge points maxed out at 3kW and some even had 3-pin sockets. We now have about 1 million EVs on UK roads with around 660,000 fully electric. Tesla has become the brand to beat. So, we are now seeing people using the media to bash EV with mostly unqualified statements, which is a sure sign EV is gaining traction. Let’s be clear, sales are buoyant, the infrastructure is going in, new models are arriving, batteries are continually improving, and global governments are legislating to phase out ICE. Are we sure what the market will look like in five [5] or 10 years, to be honest not really. Are we on an unstoppable journey, yes. The future is electric.”

Gill Nowell, Head of EV Communications at LV= General Insurance / ElectriX: “The electric car revolution in the UK is well underway, with 33% of all new cars registered in December all-electric. Whilst affordability is a key concern for most people, electric cars often work out cheaper if you look at all the costs involved. The ElectriX car comparison calculator shows that EVs can offer better value than internal combustion engine cars – especially if you can charge at home.

“Public charging has become more expensive because of rising energy costs but most EV drivers charge at home and only use public chargers occasionally. My personal experience is that it costs me less than £5 to fully charge my car, which equates to just £300 to drive 12,000 miles. And I’m not the only one. A recent survey of 4,489 EV drivers found 83% of them would still choose to go electric in spite of rising energy costs. So, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our focus needs to be on ensuring that public chargers are reliable, safe and accessible, and that those who cannot charge at home are not disadvantaged. The right infrastructure needs to be installed in the right places and well maintained. We must continue to support people who are interested in moving to electric so that they can do so in an affordable and easy way.”

Iain Wight, CEO of Inobat, noted: “We also need to address the charging network and ensure that it is developing at the same rate as EV adoption. Like everything, correct policy is required to incentivize and help build the markets, industry and employment of the future. It really is a matter of precise and targeted collaboration across sectors, and private and public markets, to ensure a clean air future for all.”

Ian Johnston, CEO at Osprey Charging Network: “We have an opportunity today to make a change that will benefit all future generations so we must not pause or slow down our commitment to the ZEV mandate at this moment. Consumer demand for EVs is growing even stronger each day, and now in 2023 we will see a mass deployment of literally thousands of new public charge-points located in reliable, easy to access and easy to use charging hubs across the UK. The UK is now in a position where drivers have the luxury of choosing between a number of trusted, customer-focused and heavily-funded charging networks who are each deploying vast numbers of charge-points on motorways, A roads, retail parks and on residential streets, from the tip of Cornwall up to the Scottish Highlands.”

Kate Tyrrell, Founder of ChargeSafe: “For us at ChargeSafe, the increased speed at which public charging infrastructure is being delivered gives us confidence in an electric future. Our mission is simple. Today, with over 37,000 charge points in the UK we must ensure every charge site safe and accessible, for everyone. The work we are doing with partners such as Motability Operations and Osprey truly demonstrate the ever-evolving nature of the public infrastructure. We are so privileged to be at a point where we can effect real change and support independent businesses.”

Quentin Willson, Founder FairCharge, added: “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that some of the traditional OEMs are pushing against the transition to EVs, arguing that it will hit their bottom line. What the Government needs to do now is create a clear and present policy that ensures the UK has a thriving domestic battery cell and EV industry. This isn’t just about clean air for all, it’s also about the industry and employment of the future.

“Why build out a domestic lithium refining business, with no battery manufacturers to feed into? It seems slightly befuddled. If we look at the ZEV mandate, it is a clear policy to encourage EV adoption. Any push back on things like the ZEV mandate could be hugely detrimental to the people of the U.K. and its success in the Race to Zero. Now, more than ever, collaboration is of paramount importance, no division. Push back will be hugely detrimental to the UK’s industrial strategy, future energy independence, high tech jobs and cleaner air.”

Euan McTurk, Consultant Battery Electrochemist at Plug Life Consulting: “Backed by its strong reputation for battery research, there is a huge opportunity for the UK to become a genuine world leader in battery and EV manufacturing, with the opportunity to export these products to further boost our economy. Yet, some naysayers appear to be using the demise of Britishvolt to try to hamper proactive policy, forgetting that any failure to switch British industry to EVs will result in massive imports of EVs built overseas, zero exports of British-built vehicles and the UK being an industrial irrelevance. The UK Government needs to at least match the US’ highly successful Inflation Reduction Act – which is directly responsible for a wave of new battery and EV gigafactories planned in the US – to prove their seriousness about, and commitment to, the task in hand, and provide the certainty required to attract private capital to make the UK a green tech industrial powerhouse.

“Some people have rightly pointed out the expense of public rapid charging, which is driven solely by the wholesale cost of electricity. This is in turn driven by the wholesale cost of gas, but this needn’t be the case. A simple reform of the electricity market, to decouple the cost of electricity from the cost of gas, would reduce electricity costs by tens upon tens of pence per unit, without requiring a single penny of taxpayer subsidy. The UK Government could – and should – enact this highly logical win-win with the stroke of a pen, not just to lower the cost of public charging, but to lower costs for all British homes and businesses, lifting a huge financial strain off the former and making the latter even more competitive on the world stage.”

McTurk video:

Geordie Wilkes, Head of Research Sucden Financial, and Guest Lecturer at UCL in Decarbonisation, and Resource Extraction Economics: “The trend for EVs is undeniable, and the argument that they are not better for the environment is severely flawed. Lack of investment and policy will significantly reduce the UK’s competitiveness on a global stage, you could argue that the rules or origin regulation already do. As a result, there must be clear guidance and strategy from the top down to enable the UK EV market to grow and help achieve net zero targets. This is not the case, to the point that the High Court determined the Net Zero Strategy’ inadequate’ for meeting 2050 net zero goals. More recently, MP Chris Skidmore published a review on the UK’s Net Zero Strategy, citing that lack of clarity surrounding existing targets can cause ‘significant risks’. Inconsistent policies mean that the UK “could do more to reap economic benefits of green growth”, and this suggests that the current approach, while an improvement, is not enough.”

According to SMMT, given the global and domestic challenges, industry is looking for a dedicated framework to position the UK as one of the world’s most competitive locations for advanced automotive manufacturing. This framework must address soaring energy costs and the threat of increasing global protectionism, provide fiscal measures to encourage investment in zero emission technologies and equip the UK’s talented workforce with the right skills to deliver these vehicles.

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