It’s not a lack of public charge point that is putting drivers off

It’s not a lack of public charge point that is putting drivers off

Colin Herron Many of you will have seen the recent BBC News article declaring that a ‘patchy’ network of charging points is discouraging UK drivers from embracing electric cars. I’m always amazed by the attitude of the press in their reporting of electric cars. It wasn’t that long ago when we were getting lambasted by the local BBC for wasting public money installing charge points when there weren’t enough cars on the roads to use them. You can’t have it both ways, BBC.   The article looks at local authority areas and makes like-for-like comparisons and ranks authorities by the numbers of charge points in their area. There’s also an accompanying map which shows the average distance between them. Let’s also mention the use of an outdated headline image of a Twizy (with three pin plug) and a case study on a driver who has no access to off-street parking for charging. It doesn’t get more one-sided than that.   So here’s why I disagree:   There just aren’t enough vehicles to buy If I only had one point to make about the accuracy of this article – this would be it.   It’s not the lack of charge points that is disuading potenial EV buyers but the fact that we don’t have enough vehicles on the market to meet demand. If we didn’t have huge waiting lists to buy the next models of EV and instead we had dealerships with car parks filled with unsold electric cars, then maybe I would believe that there is a problem. But, at the moment, the simple fact is that manufacturers don’t have...
Our look ahead at the EV industry in 2018

Our look ahead at the EV industry in 2018

Colin Herron 2017 was an interesting year for the electric vehicle industry with some major announcements and growing demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, which we hope will continue. As ever, here at Zero Carbon Futures, we’re looking forward to the year ahead and anticipating what 2018 may bring for us. Who will be the movers and shakers and the people to watch next year? These are our thoughts. Leave us your comments below and tell us what you would add. The traditional fuel suppliers: We’ve got our eyes firmly on the likes of BP and other fuel companies in 2018. It will be interesting to see what their reaction will be to the moves by Shell to break into the alternative fuel market by buying an infrastructure company and an electric utility. How far will Shell go in 2018 and how will their competitors respond? Power companies: Ecotricity are still in the lead when it comes to green power however 2017 saw some interesting new entrants into the market with the likes of Bulb causing a bit of a stir. It will be interesting to see who will come out top in 2018 and win the favour of EV drivers. IONITY: The joint venture of BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW, Audi, and Porsche has the potential to change the face of high-power-charging. 2018 will definitely show us the extent of their ambition. And it will also be interesting to see if other manufacturers come on board to join the partnership. This is definitely one to watch in 2018. Independents: With such heavy hitters entering the markets, it will also be...
It’s not a lack of public charge point that is putting drivers off

A methodology for calculating the required number of rapid chargers for a population.

Colin Herron It is a frequently heard statement, especially in the press, that the UK suffers from a lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This ‘lack of infrastructure’ is cited as being a major barrier to EV-uptake, creating range anxiety and making EVs unviable at the current time. But exactly how many charge points are really required? And what type should they be to meet this increasing demand. I, and a colleague from Newcastle University, have discussed this for many months with the aim of answering these questions. How do we make sure that the UK has enough charging infrastructure – in the right locations – to change people’s mindsets about electric vehicles? In undertaking this research, a number of data sources have been used to determine our conclusions. Starting with the number of ICE cars on the road and the number of miles driven, we are able to work out the energy required for a given number of vehicles. We’ve looked specifically at the charging mix. At present, we have three options: (1) charging a home; (2) charging at work and (3) charging in transit – transit being either commuting or longer distances. We have made an assumption that many early adopters have access to home or work charging and therefore we have set a figure for charging in transit at 10% of overall mileage. We have also assumed that in transit charging will be provided by 50kW DC chargers for the foreseeable future as no cars currently available can charge at over 50kW. Time on a charger has to be factored in as does the various business...
Our annual industry round-up for 2017

Our annual industry round-up for 2017

Colin Herron There have been some significant advances in the EV industry this year – both for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure development.  We have heard announcements from car companies, governments, cities, mayors, power and fuel companies. The facts of the year have also been accompanied by a good dose of fiction, hype and selective interpretation. So what is our take on the EV news of the year and who are the winners (and losers) of 2017.   Our particular highlights   The black cab turns green After years of development, it was a significant milestone when the London Taxi Company announced their all-new electric TX. We’ve always seen the taxi industry as key to EV development – not only through the replacement of large fleets but also to help change the public’s perceptions of electric cars as they are introduced to an alternative. And it is also great to see that these vehicles will be made in the UK. The new Nissan LEAF More impressive to me than the Volvo announcement, is this year’s reveal of the new Nissan LEAF as it is still one of only two cars which provide volume. With its new looks and its 40kWh battery, this could indeed be a game changer, tipping the range to just around the 160-mile mark making an electric car far more accessible to many more people. High powered chargers It’s almost impossible to believe that in 2011 we were installing 3kW charge points only. So to see 300kW rapid chargers hit the market this year was really significant. Initially, of course, this will have a small impact at...
Seven arguments against electric cars … and my response.

Seven arguments against electric cars … and my response.

Colin Herron Since the news last week regarding the UK Government’s ban on petrol and diesel cars, the naysayers have come out in force with their arguments against electric cars. It surprises me that many of the conversations and questions are exactly the same as they were 5 years ago. Whilst some arguments have merit, there are others that can easily be discounted. So here’s my look at the 7 most frequent arguments against electric cars and my response to each: The infrastructure is not there You only need to look at Zap Map to see that there are ample charge points for the number of electric cars on the roads. As I write, there are over 7,000 public charge points which includes 1,000 rapids. And although it’s not a like-for-like comparison, it does put it into perspective when I say that in 2016 the total number of petrol station sites was 8,459. It is also worth remembering that around 70% of all charging is done at home – where it’s easy and convenient for the driver – so the public infrastructure is providing a much needed back-up but it is not the full picture.        2. The grid will collapse and fall over There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the potential strain on the grid that electric cars could cause. But a lot of that discussion, I think, has missed the point. People have talked about the amount of energy required to fuel 30 million electric cars – with the assumption that we’re all going to come home and plug in at exactly the same...
Will production volumes be enough to meet the Govt’s petrol and diesel ban?

Will production volumes be enough to meet the Govt’s petrol and diesel ban?

Colin Herron The announcement today that Britain is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 is a really positive step forward. Having worked in this industry since 2010 it’s something that we’ve been anticipating for some time now. Over the last 18 months, there has been a real shift in people’s awareness of the issue of air pollution in our cities and the health threat this poses. This legislation today therefore puts a stake in the ground to ensure a healthier and more sustainable future. Today I’ve been interviewed by both local TV and radio as they have picked up this national story. The main question I’ve encountered is how will it be possible to make the step-change from low emission cars being in a minority to becoming something that is commonplace. In my view the biggest challenge isn’t about consumer acceptance (although that still does pose a problem) but rather manufacturing. To get to the stage where every new car sold will be an electric car, manufacturers have to act and start ramping up production immediately. This is a challenge which I think will be being discussed in boardrooms all over the world. Take Nissan Sunderland for example. Nissan were first to market with their Nissan LEAF and they have been manufacturing the model in Sunderland since 2013. So the company has a head-start in the world of electric manufacturing. Building the physical body of the vehicle is not any different to any other vehicle however it is the manufacture of the battery which requires new skills, investment and development. It’s well documented...
Litigation was inevitable – so what steps should local authorities be taking?

Litigation was inevitable – so what steps should local authorities be taking?

Colin Herron Today’s news that a woman in Paris was taking the French Government to court for failing to protect her from the effects of air pollution (Source: BBC) comes as no great surprise. It’s been something that I have been predicting would happen for some time. Over the last few years, the topic of air pollution has been moving up the media agenda and we, as a nation, are therefore becoming increasingly aware of the impact that this health emergency will have on our futures and that of our children. Air pollution is estimated to cause up to 40,000 premature deaths a year and as awareness grows, litigation is inevitable. Unfortunately, that litigation is going to be placed on the shoulders of our cash strapped councils, of which many have been slow to react to the problem up until now. The Government’s recent announcement of the introduction of Clean Air Zones is a start, however what this act has done is highlighted particular local authorities and placed the emphasis on them to make the decisions and changes needed to tackle pollution on a local level. In my view the Government need to go one step further – acknowledge that this is a problem for all and take steps to support councils to implement the changes needed and allocate funding where necessary. The result of not taking a UK-wide approach to this problem could well be hundreds of court cases brought against individual local councils who are struggling to make the necessary changes. So what changes could councils be making as a starting point? I believe there are several...
Our annual industry round-up for 2017

Creating the perfect ecosystem for the mass adoption of electric vehicles: will 2017 be the year?

Colin Herron Reflection The electric vehicle industry continues to see fast paced change every year. In 2016 we predicted three key themes – all of which have become reality: Larger capacity batteries – we saw 30kWh then 40kWh batteries available during 2016. Charging for charging – charging for free couldn’t last forever. The business model for the return on investment on electric vehicle charge points is still very uncertain but it was understandable to us that fee structures needed to be introduced and it was no surprise when Ecotricity announced theirs in 2016. More models on the marketplace – with over 30 makes and models of electric vehicles on the market by 2016 it was definitely the year when consumer choice grew. And with VW group declaring their intentions to be the market leader and JLR unveiling their plans, this growth will continue. Dieselgate We also witnessed something that no one could predict: the backlash following 2015’s dieselgate. Dieselgate really focussed the attention of politicians and the media towards the need for alternatives with questions being asked about how best to facilitate this change. For me, therefore, 2017 will be very much about seeing some of the necessary key ingredients coming together to help accelerate the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles.   The perfect ecosystem for mass-scale adoption Clean air zones – 2016 saw the announcement that four cities will ban diesel cars by 2025, marking a shift from vague aspirations to actually setting a cut-off date. In 2017, I hope that more cities and authorities will follow suit in making such declarations. Bans like this will also force the...
Autonomous vehicles: are we really ready?

Autonomous vehicles: are we really ready?

Colin Herron Autonomous vehicles are the latest disruptive technology to get the media all fired up. The futuristic vision of being able to sit in the back of a car, catching up on emails whilst having Alexa or Siri reading us our personalised pick of the news of the day seems just years away. If you believe the hype. The technology may be here, or at least emerging, for autonomous cars but I still believe that there has been a lack of thorough understanding of what the term ‘autonomous’ actually means and in fact what needs to be put in place before we get anywhere near to what the public perceive to be autonomous driving. Ask most journalists and the general public what autonomous vehicles are and they will quite understandably say ‘a car with no driver’.  For me there is an enormous difference between the terms ‘driverless’ and ‘autonomous’. In my mind ‘autonomous’ is the stages of development which will allow a car to take more decisions on behalf of the driver, which in turn could lead to, as some believe, driverless. So will all of this really happen? My view is that, with some planning, we could be close to some level of autonomous however fully driverless is a long, long way away. On the plus side, I see a real positive in assisting our ageing population. I, like many others, will want to drive as long as possible and the features of autonomy will help me do this. The technology will, for instance, render it impossible for me to drive the wrong way down a motorway and it...
Five years as Zero Carbon Futures: what we didn’t know in 2011

Five years as Zero Carbon Futures: what we didn’t know in 2011

2011 was quite a memorable year. It was the year of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; the year of the London riots and, for the Royalists out there, the celebrations of a Royal wedding. It was also the year that we set up Zero Carbon Futures in response to the closure of One North East. With only one project in hand (Plugged in Places) and complete uncertainty about what would come next, it really was a step in the dark. However five years later, Zero Carbon Futures is still going strong. With our fifth birthday here this month, it has got me thinking that we really had no idea about what the future looked like for the industry so here’s my top five things that we didn’t know in 2011. Whether these electric vehicles would actually take off as a product The marketplace was a completely different place back then. With a choice between the Mitsubishi iMiev / Peugeot iOn or the Nissan LEAF, consumers weren’t exactly spoilt. And since at that point, neither models were being made in Europe getting your hands on one took a little more effort. The first Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) trials started in the region around this time which helped place 44 electric cars on the roads (some of those are still going strong today as we continue to drive three of those original Nissan LEAF on a daily basis) but the market has grown significantly with 30 makes and models now available. Was anyone going to use these charge points? In the early days when we were installing charge points in...
What has the European Union ever done for EVs?

What has the European Union ever done for EVs?

Colin Herron Like many offices across the country at the moment, the topic of the EU referendum is frequently being discussed at Zero Carbon Futures. Having recently been involved in two European-funded projects, we felt it was time to wade in with our own viewpoints on what the EU can and has done for the electric vehicle industry and ask ourselves whether or not we’d be where we are without the EU. Air quality targets Let us look at the topic of air pollution as an example. Air pollution is estimated to be the cause of around 29,000 deaths in the UK each year and transport contributes to 40% of those deaths. The EU ambient air quality directive has set a limit and targets for air pollution and has the power to impose fines for poor air quality. This is absolutely what is needed right now to prompt European Governments into action. The EU has the power (and is using it) to reduce emissions, improving health for all and in doing so has promoted the use of alternative fuelled vehicles. The EU can not only set binding targets for all EU member states but can set conditions of sale for any vehicles entering the EU market place. Carbon Emission targets Similarly, the EU has set some ambitious carbon emission targets with a goal to see a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions from transport by 2050. In order to meet this target, the EU has placed real pressure on the car industry – something that individual governments would just not be able to do. Can you imagine the UK alone...
New initiative to kick start hydrogen vehicles but who will benefit?

New initiative to kick start hydrogen vehicles but who will benefit?

Colin Herron The Government has recently announced grants of £2 million for businesses and local authorities to accelerate the uptake of hydrogen vehicles. Now call me cynical (I know many people do) but as I stated in my previous blog, I still can’t see a day when these vehicles will become mass market. Firstly, the cars are just not being produced in large enough numbers to make a significant difference. According to Autocar there will be just 50 Toyota Mirai arriving in the UK in 2016 and global production for the car in 2017 is only 3,000. In a recent news report by USA Today, they forecast that global sales will amount to only 70,000 by 2027 which is only 0.1% of all new vehicles sold. These are hardly ground breaking figures. Secondly, the price is expected to place hydrogen cars out of reach for most normal households or businesses.  The expected price of the Toyota will be £60,000 (Autocar) and the Hyundai ix35 is slightly cheaper at £53,000. Based on these figures increasing uptake will be a challenge. In times of austerity, it will be interesting to see which local authority will be brave enough to put staff in a £63,000 car even if it is subsidised. Most importantly, the final barrier will be the lack of refuelling stations. With hydrogen refuelling stations costing in excess of £2 million, it’s hardly surprising that there’s only plans to install a handful across the entire country. Currently London, Swindon and Rotherham are home to hydrogen refuelling stations and the UK Government has plans to bring the total up to 13 in the...
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