A look to the horizon on World EV Day

As World EV Day takes place tomorrow, Shoosmiths’ E&I partner Chris Pritchett takes an in-depth look at current industry and community standing in respect of the electrification of our transport systems.

World EV Day now in its fourth year, aims to unite companies and individuals, policy makers and thought leaders, for a day of activations and announcements that continue to propel the e-mobility movement across the globe.

Chris, who has nearly 20 years' experience in the sustainability sphere, with specialist knowledge of battery storage, solar, EV infrastructure and wind, argues that whilst EV use take-up grows in Europe and in America, clearer and more consistent messaging is needed in the UK to tackle issues of accessibility around charging and to provide assurances to its customer base.

A look at the European landscape

No-one can be in any doubt that in Europe at least, proliferation of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is showing steady rises month on month. For instance, over 20 percent of new cars sold in the UK in August were Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).  

But with the increasing crossing of EVs from the early-adoption frontier to the commercial mainstream, we’ve seen the rise of the counter-narrative; the scare stories, the concocted and selective outrage and the weaponization of net-zero policies as a political wedge issue.

Collapsing car parks, fires, pothole creation – it seems there is very little EVs can’t be blamed for in some sections of the press, even to the extent of having a detrimental effect on one’s “manliness”, according to one of many publications this week.

There are other agendas at play here of course; the desire of some to delay the government’s 2030 ban on new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars; the leviathan lobbying of the fossil fuel industry and the far right-wing desire to polarise its base against the woke-ification of transport.

The challenge for many in the industry though, is to cut through the misinformation and refute where needed with cold hard fact, whilst recognising the genuinely-held concerns of the potential EV drivership. Sometimes the answer is education, a change in driving habits, familiarity and support. Sometimes we just need to do better.

A change in habits in the US

The US is a fascinating case-study. Arguably even further advanced as a nation of culture wars, the red/blue rural/urban socio-economic landscape is perfectly set for an epic schism around the evolution of vehicles away from historically cheap gas-guzzlers to a quieter, more sustainable future. 

Biden’s bold Inflation Reduction Act opens the door not only for an upsurge in charging infrastructure to support the fast-growing market, but how to expand the reach beyond the liberal urbanites (and, arguably most of California?). Enter Ford and the F-150 Lightning.  If ever there was a product to cut across political and cultural lines, this is it. America’s most popular truck, reinvented for the electric age, and offering off-grid solutions for camping, off-roading and protection against power outages. It’s one of the things that’s most exciting for the global EV industry in my view.

Lower cost EVs – advantages and vulnerabilities

So are the decreasing costs of EVs, whether this is the fall in second hand prices for ex-fleet cars or the arrival of highly competitive smaller cars from China, BYD Auto being the leading player. This proliferation cuts both ways of course; and domestic manufacturing industry, particularly in the UK is rapidly looking vulnerable to this imminent cascade of new, lower-cost models.

The lack of investment in battery manufacturing, semi-conductors and recycling plants is looking depressingly short-sighted, and whilst the tabloids may squeak about the potential impact of Chinese industrial power on our automotive sectors, the reality is that too little has been done, and too late.  For the consumer, though, the availability of affordable cars that move away from the monolithic SUV default that marked many manufacturers’ EV entry point, is to be welcomed.

A look at messaging in the UK

Looking at the UK, it’s clear that convenience (and the perception of it) is one of the main enemies to EV adoption.  Reports of charging queues at busy service station hubs during the summer holidays worry many. The issue of course, is not the number of chargepoints, many of which will be under-utilised apart from high days and holidays. It’s the expectation of drivers that charging should be accessible in the same way as filling up with petrol. On demand, on the motorway and without a wait.

Truly, I find this unrealistic.  Rather than run the risk of a wait at a potentially busy service station, five minutes’ browsing can yield a world of possibility. Farm shops, garden centres, retail parks, good pubs, coffee shops, all within a couple of minutes of the motorway or the A-road. Fast charging, pleasant environments, and in my experience so far -never a queue.

Great EV hubs are being built just off the motorway network, alongside pub chains, and fast-food outlets, and in the case of Salmon’s Leap in Buckfastleigh, a stunning river.  All of these are, I would say, much more fun than sitting in a queue at a service station, despite the eye-wateringly impressive deployment of stalls on the MSA network by the leading players. 

Messaging needs to be enhanced , and those of us in the electrification camp also need to be understanding of some aspects of consumers’ reticence. We also need to steer clear of absolutism – EVs are a part of the solution, partly in terms of carbon reduction, but massively in respect of air quality improvement. Other fuel options will play a part – perhaps not in fuel cells for domestic cars, but in almost every other aspect of road transportation.

The future of EVS

And all the while, we should be seeking common ground around the fact that the sustainable transition is, for now, focussing too strongly on a like-for-like replacement of ICE vehicles, both in numerical terms and in the ownership and user experience. The future is elsewhere; in an evolution of traditional ownership towards asset sharing and subscription, transport as a service and access to mobility rather than owning it.  

The way we use cars has to move from a hunk of refined natural resources sitting un-used for 90 percent of the time towards a more efficient utilisation – where fewer cars are used a great deal more often, and the availability of other options for active and sustainable travel are given the same priority as the protection of new cars as a consumer good. 

However, rather than a challenge this represents an exciting opportunity for OEM’s to innovate, integrate and iterate and turn away from a historical policy of pure volume.

For now, though, I’m off to charge at a nice pub in the sunshine with a locally sourced brew. Happy World EV Day!


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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