Opinion:The government’s clean transport plan is great but still vague
“Transport decarbonisation is a dull way of describing something much more exciting and far-reaching,” wrote Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in the foreword of the government’s long-awaited clean transport plan.
And he’s not wrong. For most people, the rapid switch to battery power from fossil fuels of old is, as Buzz Aldrin would say, “one giant leap for mankind”.
Because it’s not just a case of changing what we drive, it’s a line in the sand by our country (and the wider world) that we all need to buck up our ideas and protect the planet.
It has never been more pressing that each nation does everything within its grasp to cut emissions. Only this week, scientists revealed that the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as Earth’s lungs, is now giving out more CO2 than it takes in - in large part thanks to Brazilian farmers burning it down.
It’s therefore welcome news that the UK government has now laid out its plan to end the sale of all new polluting vehicles by 2040. Not only that, but their Transport Decarbonisation Plan also covers how even our maritime and aviation industries will need to step up to the mark. This is because the UK’s total transport activities make-up 27% of all our country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
However, while the government’s plan to shift people to cleaner transport in the future is a great read, in the present it is still rather vague.Left behind
In the UK about one in three households doesn’t have a driveway. That means millions of car owners park their vehicles each night on the street. As more people adopt EVs, this will become a great challenge for the country and risks excluding people from car ownership.
The government knows this too. And that’s why they have not only set aside £20 million for its On-Street Residential Scheme in 2021/22. But they are also launching a new £90 million fund for local authorities to build chargepoints in 2022.
However, is that really going to cut mustard? London has probably been the first area where councils have started carpet bombing streets with on-street chargers. But despite the huge number often they get ICEed, hogged by whoever lives nearest and left unfixed for weeks.
Therefore, some non-driveway EV owners choose instead to charge their vehicles up by trailing a cable across the pavement.Protect the consumer
In the government’s plan, there’s also little new action to protect consumers. Either from high prices or poor reliability. This is despite current EV owners and the industry crying out for better rules. However, the government is yet to reveal anything concrete. What they have said is that they “plan to regulate this year on measures to improve the consumer experience of public charging”.
Let’s hope so, because if they don’t take action soon, there’s a real risk the EV industry sees entries by cowboy operators as well as people being put off by poor standards.
As soon as possible, the government needs to make contactless payments mandatory at all chargepoints, ensure there are set maintenance standards for all public chargers and start monitoring their pricing.
The Department for Transport says this will happen this year and the fact they are speaking regularly to groups, like the EV Association, is encouraging. But, as will always be the case, actions speak louder than words.
Opinion:Could we soon enter a charging drought?
According to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), deliveries of new electric vehicles reached new heights in June. Not only did all-electrics take 10.7% of the market, but Tesla's Model 3 became the most popular car in the UK.
This is a huge moment for electric motoring in this country. One year ago, not only was the market share under half what it is now, but EVs were also still viewed as being quite niche 'eco' items.
Oh, how times have changed. Nowadays you can't move or standstill without seeing EVs. From the endless TV adverts, football sponsorships or even just walking down the street; you cannot avoid watching a torrent of cars with their special green number plates swishing silently past.
And it's brilliant. It seems finally, after all the Attenborough documentaries, Greta protests and sinking polars bears, people suddenly have decided (with some help from the government) they want to do the right thing.
But, with great success comes great challenges. And there's one that could fast become a problem…Charging droughts
It sounds ostentatious but it is in fact very serious. It's essentially a situation where the number of chargepoints is a lot lower than the number of electric cars in a particular place.
So, if there are 20 EVs to one local public chargepoint connector, that's pretty good. However, if eventually that number were to reach the 100s, that is very bad.
The impact of not enough connectors for cars is more queuing to use them, people travelling further away to recharge, and non-owners being put off completely.
This issue could be particularly worrisome if you don't own a driveway where you can install a home charger - an issue that affects around a third of the population and perhaps even more than that.
And it's a real concern too. From June 2020 to June 2021, the number of pure electric cars on the road rose by about 140%. Or, in real terms, by over 40,000. By comparison, the number of public chargepoints in the UK only increased by 35% during the same period.
There are currently around 25,000 public chargers in the UK and only 4,600 of those are rapid devices.
Already there are increasing tales of EV owners having to queue or struggling with the lack of infrastructure in their local area. And you only have to look at mapping tools like ZapMap to see the potential problem areas.
Huge charging deserts exist across swathes of Scotland, North of England, East England and the South West where only a handful of useful chargepoints exist. As one example, there are fewer than 30 fast (50kWh+) public chargers in Cornwall. How are visitors and residents meant to cope when the nation arrives there this summer holiday?How do we solve it?
There are a few ways we can tackle this issue. The main one being that the government should ensure that there is a proper network being installed - we can't have more isolated stations with only one or two connectors. There needs to be many more connectors along our high roads, like you'd expect at a petrol station.
But, also, we must use the hundreds of thousands of chargepoints installed at people's homes to our advantage. There are now simple ways that home owners and destinations can register a chargepoint to be used publicly, both to earn money and to drive EV uptake and ultimately help climate change. From offering it to your neighbours on CoCharger or adding it to Bookmycharge for those on route or visiting destinations, or indeed both!
Sharing is just the juice we need to stop our EVs drying out in a charging drought.
Opinion:Explained: Benefit-in-kind for electric vehicles
At the moment, the government is doing as much as it can to encourage wider use of EVs. That has included grants for new purchases and chargepoint installations all the way to investment for businesses breaking into the sector.
However, there's another way you can also benefit from this government support. And that's to take advantage of the very supportive benefit-in-kind rules that currently apply to EVs.
Now, you might be wondering what on Earth benefit-in-kind is and why you should use it, so here's a short explainer!What is a benefit-in-kind?
Essentially, it is a perk or benefit that you get at work, which is not factored into your salary or wage. The most popular forms of a benefit-in-kind are company cars or private health insurance.
However, as some benefits-in-kind, like cars, can be valuable, the government has rules that tax people if they receive a benefit-in-kind that can be used privately - which most company cars are. If they did not do this, people could potentially pay less taxes despite receiving items worth a lot of money.How much are company cars taxed?
The tax rate a person - not the company - is charged depends on the car's fuel type. And this is where it's beneficial to have an EV. Whereas someone with a petrol-powered vehicle could have to pay at least £1,000 per year to use a company car, someone driving an EV will pay just 1% this year.
The incentives are also strong for plug-in hybrid drivers where the benefit-in-kind rate is based on CO2 emissions and pure-electric driving range, which sees drivers pay between 1-13% this year (for reference, drivers of cars without electric-only capability will pay between 14-37%.
After this financial year, the rates remain most beneficial for the cleanest vehicles with rates only rising by 1% for 2022/23 and 2023/24.How can you take advantage?
If you are an employee, you can ask or encourage your company to take advantage of the many tax breaks by setting up an EV scheme. Naturally, you will still need to be able to afford the lease or payment of a car if one is offered.
If you are an employer, you can offer your staff or directors a clean electric car, which not only ticks all the right green boxes, but is also tax efficient for the employee. From an admin point of view, all you need to do is include it in forms to HMRC (the actual form is called a P11D) just to ensure they don't chase after you. Your accountant will be able to help with this.
Alternatively, an easier approach is to speak with well-known companies like Octopus Electric Vehicles who can set up an entire salary sacrifice scheme for your business and staff.What if you are self-employed?
If you are self-employed or the owner of a company, you can still receive a benefit-in-kind too. But it is your responsibility to maintain the records and ensure HMRC is informed. Again, an accountant should be able to help you with this.How long will government support last?
Whether you currently offer company cars to staff or are looking to in future, you should certainly take advantage of the support for EVs now. They are not only superb cars that are increasingly backed by a strong infrastructure, but also many are choosing to take advantage if you're not.
It's difficult to predict when or if one day the government will ease off their financial support given the take-up. As with most things, it is always better to be early than late!
Opinion:Should car ownership be curbed?
You would have thought with the sudden surge in EV ownership that green campaigners would be celebrating with bunting and locally-sourced pies.
EVs are after all much more recyclable, better for the environment over the long-term and don't dirty the air we breathe.
Alas, a new report this week by the Think Tank IPPR has revealed that they are not happy. In fact, they are quite annoyed with the great shift to electric motors.
Well, they argue the push to EVs, helped by government policies and spurred on by mad investor interest, will mean that literally everyone driving a normal car today will get an EV in the future.
This consistent car ownership alongside the growing population of the UK will, they believe, lead to 28% more cars on the road by 2050. That in turn could create 11% more traffic.
The think tank has argued that there could be serious health and environmental knock-on effects from this vehicle growth. And maybe they have a point.
Nobody gets fit sitting comfortably in a car, electric vehicles do use a lot of vital resources, big vehicles, such as popular SUV models, take up a huge amount of street space, and the think tank is right that congestion is awful now and more cars will certainly not make it better.
This doesn't mean we should stop people getting a car. Yet this is what the academics and politicians who wrote IPPR's paper seem to desire.
They believe more funding should go to e-scooters and e-bikes. That way we can build local communities around micromobility. Or, as they put it, only transport that is 'socially necessary'.
"The needs of people and nature must be prioritised over cars" says the IPPR. But they've got it wrong on two fronts.
Firstly, people need cars in our country. When you're in London walking to your office with a cappa-macca-frappa-mocha in hand, it's hard to remember that there is a world outside the M25 where 'artisan' means carpenter and not a barista.
Public transport in our cities is probably better than it has ever been. There are a multitude of options now from trams, buses, bike sharing, e-scooters and trains. But outside, in the towns and villages where most people live, it does not make sense.
Whereas in London a bus comes along every five minutes, elsewhere it can be every hour or less. This is why government figures from 2019 show that just 7% of people travelled to work by bus, whereas 68% commute by car. Meanwhile, going to work by bike is a hobby of well under a million.
The second reason the IPPR is misguided is that the cars of the future are prioritising nature. We are at the cusp of an explosion in electric vehicle enthusiasm and invention. It's surely inevitable that by 2050 EVs will be made even more efficiently than today, making them even cheaper and more recyclable.
Likewise, new technologies like autonomous driving and shared cars will surely mean less people will need to own a vehicle anyway. So, what's the worry about?
Campaigners should be chuffed that suddenly the Earth is embracing clean technology and mobility. They cannot now decide to cancel cars completely. It's ignorant of how the UK gets around and risks alienating would-be EV adopters.
It is time us motorists give back to nature
More than 100 years ago in 1908, a revolution started that would change the face of the Earth. It was the year that Ford's Model T started rolling out of the factory and into the hands of the mass middle classes. Since this moment, the automobile has come to dominate every part of our lives.
From shopping trips to the school run and everything in between, the car holds a special place in our lives. It has shaped how we build our towns, trade with one another and even helped win wars.
And they're not just functional, we idolise cars too. We love to talk about them, watch them and play with them. From supercars, V8 beasts, classic Jags to a turbo hatchback. They come in all shapes and sizes with endless possibilities.
However, the simple truth is, in the short time humans have enjoyed motoring, we've seriously damaged the environment. Globally, transport now accounts for around a quarter of all CO2 emissions. There have been other knock-on effects too.
Because cars are used so frequently and frivolously - it's estimated 60% of 1 to 2-mile journeys are taken by car in England - we have made our air dirtier. This contributes to the deaths of up to 36,000 people each year from air pollution.
And, likewise, as motoring has spread to a multitude of other uses, such as logistics and agriculture, we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows since the 1930s. They are now the rarest habitat in the UK. What this means is pollinators, like bees, and other insects critical to food chains are dying out at a rate of 2.5% each year.
Now the good news
But, the good news is there is now a way the UK's 32 million motorists can pay nature back. It begins by switching to an electric car.
Over their lifetime, an EV contributes dramatically less emissions than even the most efficient petrol or diesel vehicle. They also emit no fumes, meaning driving them can ensure we have cleaner air flowing through our streets and into our lungs.
And that's not all. EV owners have the power to easily spread help for mother nature, such as getting home charging points powered by 100% renewable energy. Soon electric motorists will even be able to power the national grid itself, saving wasted emissions elsewhere.
From today there is another way EV drivers can give back to nature. By registering your chargepoint on Bookmycharge.com before 30 June, not only will you help more people to go green, but you will also guarantee 9 square metres of land is rewilded.
Rewilding is a simple but brilliant way to give nature a second chance. Bookmycharge has partnered with Heal Rewilding to sponsor a 3m by 3m square of land for every new chargepoint registered on its platform.
Heal is a national charity that raises money to rewild lowland areas in England, to restore them to their natural state, improving biodiversity and increasing natural abundance.
As motorists, we've had more than 100 years of carefree fun in the driving seat, now it's time we bring nature along for the ride.
Friday 11 June 2021
• The UK government is considering a plan to axe tariffs on electric vehicles in order to help more people to switch. This would make imported cars cheaper. Read more on The Daily Telegraph.
• Gridserve has bought Ecotricity's remaining stake in the Electric Highway network. This will likely lead to millions more being invested at motorway charging spots. Read more on Autocar.
• A London EV company has launched an ‘affordable’ conversion of the classic Mini Cooper. It costs £25,000 and has a 70-mile range – perfect for the city! Read more on City AM.
How do you pick and install a home charger?
Over the next 10 years, millions of people from Bristol to Timbuktu will end up buying an electric car. According to Bloomberg, global EV sales are now set to rise from 3.1 million in 2020 to 14 million in 2025. And that means a lot more people will have to answer the question: how do I charge this thing?
While public charging stations in the UK now outnumber petrol stations, there is still a great deal of concern on this topic. But, fortunately for the estimated two-thirds of the population who have a driveway, there is a simple answer...
Install a home charger!
This is what more than 180,000 UK households have done during recent years. It's the simple and most stress-free way to keep your EV topped up. In essence, you're just using your own energy supply much like your phone or TV does.
A home charging point will ensure you can wake-up every morning with a car full of volts. Seeing as most people drive well under 50 miles each day on average, you might never need to visit public chargers.
Likewise, home chargers are outrageously affordable right now. Not only is Her Majesty's government subsidising their installations to the tune of £350, but there are also now endless EV specific energy tariffs - meaning the electricity can be as low as 4p per kWh.
How do you get one?
Given the rise in popularity of EVs, a number of companies have started selling their own devices. All of these offer different features, colours, sizes, styles and costs. And then installation can vary too. This can all make the process quite intimidating.
But it shouldn't be. Picking and installing a home charger can be very easy.
For a lot of people, you won't even need to lift a finger. All you must do is buy an EV. This is because an increasing number of manufacturers and dealers include home charger installations as part of their service. Often, they will have special partnerships with local installers and electricians.
Check the features!
While this might sound like you can stick your feet up, you should always check exactly what you're having installed. There are several key features on offer in the market today that you might want in your charger.
- Smart charging - this is where a home charger can save you hundreds of pounds each year by using electricity when it's cheapest (often at night).
- App control - a growing number of chargepoints will let you monitor it remotely. This feature will be valuable if you want to check your rates or the state of your battery from the comfort of a sofa.
- Top speed - the standard power rate for home chargers is 7kWh. Anything less than this should be questioned. However, you may see some companies offer faster 22kW units. But, be warned, those tend to only be available for commercial properties.
- Something that looks good - this is probably the first thing you notice: how does the charger look? Nobody wants an enormous bulging box with neon lights outside their house; so be sure to find one that suits your style. Some companies have invested a lot into designing chargers that look gorgeous (Andersen is a good example).
- Vehicle to grid - this is a new but growing feature for home chargers. In essence, it allows you to charge your car up, but the flow of electricity can also be reversed to power your home. It's early days, but this feature could save and even make you money by selling kWh back to the national grid.
- To tether or not to tether - a ‘tethered’ home charger has a cable built into it. This might save you a tiny bit of time when plugging in, but the tidier and more universal option is to go with untethered (meaning you plug in a cable).
Once you've figured out which charger you like, you'll need to get an installer. There is an array of ways to find one. Either you can approach a local electrician, use comparison tools like rightcharge.co.uk or, often, the maker of a home charger will have a team of their own installers.
It's important that you research your installer carefully. Legitimate ones should all be authorised under the government's installation scheme (click the links to learn more and see the list of authorised installers).
The installation itself is probably the easiest part. Most installers will first do a survey of your home (can be done remotely) and then it will take between 0.5 to 1 days to put in.
The only item left to consider is your energy tariff. You should ensure two things; firstly, that you take advantage of the cheaper tariffs – especially if you have a smart charger – secondly, that it's a 100% green energy tariff – otherwise what's the point in driving a green vehicle!
Friday 4 June 2021
• Former England footballer David Beckham has taken a stake in Lunaz, a growing British EV company. Lunaz upcycles classic cars by electrifying them. Read more on Autocar.
• New research by Nissan has revealed electric motorists are driving up to 350 miles per year further than traditional petrol and diesel cars. The data is based off a survey of 7,000 drivers from across Europe. Read more on Nissan’s website.
• Fresh data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says that plug-in vehicles now comprise 13.8% of new car registrations - up from 7.2% a year earlier! Read more on SMMT’s website.
Why EVs are the perfect holiday companion After a rather cold Spring, it seems hot weather and sunshine has finally reached the British Isles. This is good news because, this year at least, none of us can go abroad.
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, the UK government rules make it incredibly unlikely that citizens will hit European beaches this year. That means another year of staycations. According to recent research by Barclays, some 23 million Brits will holiday in the UK in 2021.
Now, traditionally, when most of us holiday abroad, we end up having to hire cars. Often, they are expensive and left mostly unused - you don’t need one to go from the hotel to a sunbed. However, it’s the opposite situation with a staycation. In most cases, it makes sense to drive to where you’re staying. A car will also come in especially handy when the British weather inevitably turns. It gives you the flexibility to visit nearby towns, National Trust properties and beauty spots as you please.
But, unlike traditional cars, it is electric cars which are the perfect holiday companions. And here is why…
First off, EVs have fewer moving parts. The result is most vehicles have both front and back boot space for all your luggage needs. That will almost certainly come in handy when one of your party overpacks.
Are we there yet?
EVs are also high-tech. Being more modern, you’ll find an array of gimmicks and gadgets that will entertain even the most bored children on a tiring journey. From screens in the back seats, in-built USB ports to charge devices, or even ‘Car-aoke’ - which is available in a Tesla.
Additionally, as there are now more rapid chargers than there has ever been, driving a long way isn’t stressful. Even if you were holidaying in Cornwall, a charging stop would only be long enough to allow for a quick lunch, but short enough to be back on the road within an hour.
When you arrive at your holiday destination, EV owners benefit even more. As the number of EV sales have increased throughout lockdown, many savvy hospitality owners have installed chargers at their premises. This means, you will increasingly find hotels, B&Bs and even Airbnb’s with charging points. So, when you decide to visit an old castle, you will not need to worry about finding a charger en route.
Plus, even if where you're staying doesn’t have a charger, it’s more than likely you will come across charging points at nearby pubs, restaurants, local businesses or even with those living in the area. You can easily find and book these chargers using services like ZapMap and Bookmycharge.
It's the economy, stupid...
Finally, the best and most important reason as to why an EV is the perfect holiday companion: price.
It’s not only cheap as chips to charge up in comparison to petrol or diesel vehicles, but many local authorities allow free or subsidised services for EVs. This could mean being able to drive into a city without paying emission levies and even getting free parking.
Meanwhile, those driving combustion engines will be hit with extortionate costs. The money you save will help if you are on a budget. Or… it can pay for inflatable unicorns and more Mr Whippy. I know which I would choose!
Monday, June 1st 2021
• BMW and Mini have launched a new app and car, which allow owners to access charge points from a number of providers. The service covers the UK and Europe. Read more on Auto Express.
• Nissan is allegedly in advanced talks to build a new electric car battery ‘gigafactory’ in Sunderland. It’s believed Nissan want the UK to be its main electric hub outside Japan. Read more on BBC.
• Ford is ramping up its electric plans by investing $30 billion by 2025. Ford has also pledged that 40% of its vehicles sold by 2030 will be EVs. Read more on CNBC.
• The Royal Mail announced this week its first delivery centre to have an all-electric fleet of vehicles. The Bristol office had 23 diesel vans that have all been replaced by EVs. Read more on BBC.
Charging inequality – when will electric charging be fair?
New technology is always exclusive when it launches. Computers, the first cars and even the mobile phone remained a great mystery to the masses for years after their introduction.
And that’s because new technology is often expensive. The first computers took up whole offices, cars used to be hand crafted by men in dungarees, and mobile phones meant building cellular networks across nations - no wonder the first one was £3,000.
Nothing new is discounted. But, the good news is, as a technology grows in popularity, it often isn’t long until better manufacturing, cheaper materials and a competitive market brings prices down for everyone else.
This has always happened with new tech and, despite what people believe, it will be the case with electric cars - which are currently expensive to everyone who is not an oligarch.
However, in all these explosions of fresh technology, there has never been a late-joiners fee. Just like when I got my first car, a used and abused Vauxhall Corsa, I wasn’t punished by having to pay more fuel duty.
But, with electric cars that is not the case. Because, if you don’t own a home with a driveway, you will end up paying more to go electric. Why is that? Two thirds of British households have off-street parking. This means they can install a chargepoint at their home. Home chargers are impressive bits of kit.
Not only can they produce up to 7kWh and be controlled remotely, many are also ‘smart’. This means that while you dream about trees of green and red roses too, your car will juice up only when the electricity is cheapest.
Better still, the government will even pay 75% towards the cost of installing these volt stations at your house.
You’d be mad not to take up that offer if you own a driveway.
The other third
Meanwhile, though, the remaining third of motorists don’t get such a good deal.
People without off-street parking must charge their cars up using the public network. Either from slow trickle chargers, such as lamp posts, or at faster rapid chargers at service stations. All public chargers cost significantly more than what you’d pay at home, often well over double the price.
Perhaps this should be expected, public charging companies need a return on investment after all.
However, the real kick in the teeth is that, if you use public charging points, you have to pay 20% VAT. Whereas, people with a home charging point only pay 5%.
That 15% difference can amount to hundreds of pounds each year. And, given those who do not have access to a driveway tend to be less well off, you could say it’s the sort of policy Robin Hood would shoot arrows over.
EVs are a new technology that will change how everyone in this country moves. And it’s a technology everyone will have to use as time goes by, accelerated by the 2030 ban on new combustion engine sales.
While some ideas being mused by politicians, such as replacing fuel duty with ‘pay-per-mile’ road pricing, may annoy motorists. It is at least fair. It impacts everyone equally. A higher tax rate on those without a driveway on the other hand is not.
The government must build a level playing field for people to adopt EVs, not maintain a barrier. It is for this reason that the Chancellor should eliminate this charging inequality.