Last week was a media circus for car journalists, the likes of which I’ve never known: I had requests to talk on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2, the Today programme on Radio 4, Sky News and 5Live.
JUL 13th 2017
Erin Baker: EV infrastructure – we need next gen' now
Radio 2 was to discuss the fact that 20mph speed limits are being roundly ignored by motorists, but the others were all to do with electrification of cars – discussing the first customer deliveries of Tesla’s new Model 3, France’s deadline after which pure combustion-engine cars will be banned across the country, and Volvo’s announcement that by 2019 all its cars will feature hybrid or pure electric powertrains.
This whipped up the public and the tabloids alike into a feeding frenzy as if it was all a great shock. They seemed to think it was as radical a departure as the introduction of fully autonomous cars. But hybrids still feature a combustion engine, and every manufacturer has now been building hybrids or plug-in hybrids for some time. The technology has been adopted wholesale by luxury and supercar manufacturers and the UK’s infrastructure was charged by the Government with catching up rapidly some time ago.
This last point is really the only major stumbling block: the price of batteries is coming down, the range of batteries between charges is increasing, we’re starting to see the first secondhand EVs back on the market so can start to gauge residuals better, and charge times are coming down. All that’s left to worry about is where to charge them.
Chargemaster, responsible for the majority of Britain’s public-charging infrastructure, is working like a beast to match the pace of change in the industry and the vacuous political announcements, made as and when more green votes are needed. Already, there are more than 13,000 charging points at 4,500 locations across the country, and 30,000 Homecharge units for domestic charging have been supplied so far.
But, unless you’re a Tesla owner with access to its network of superchargers that will give you a good whack of juice in 20 minutes, and their in-car satnav system which will incorporate superchargers into your route, with calculated charge and times shown on the system, it can still be a painfully slow affair compared with putting fuel in a tank and being on your way. Chargemaster’s version of the rapid charger is called the Ultracharge unit, 200 are being installed in the next 12 months.
That’s obviously not enough if we’re all going to be driving plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) or electric vehicles, but the Government put the pressure on in the recent Queens’ Speech for the supply of a rapid charger in every filling station in the UK ere long. There are currently about 8,500 filling stations in Britain, so Chargemaster is going to be a busy bee.
Meanwhile, the 100,000th PHEV in the UK was registered earlier this year and, in the most exciting sign of the times so far, my father has just put down his deposit for a Model 3.
The times, they are a-changin; catch up, everyone.
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