The announcement that the government is planning to bring forward the ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and now hybrid vehicles to 2035 or sooner has sent shockwaves through the industry. Though dealers understand that alternative fuels have to be on the agenda, many believe the full-throttle rush into electric has not been thoroughly thought through.
"In general, I think the whole question of electrics is a debate in government that is driven by headlines rather than practical considerations," says Graham Kennedy MBE, managing director of Inner Space Stations.
"There appears to be no thought as to how the government is going to replace fuel tax and duty. It’s as if the whole industry has been demonised by environmental activists."
They are strong views but Graham is not alone in worrying about the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Louise Hammond, owner of AW&D Hammonds in Halesworth, Suffolk, says: "We are not just a petrol filling station, we are a business with multiple vehicle franchises, so clearly this affects us in more than one way. We also repair vehicles and recover them so I think the whole thing is quite ludicrous to be perfectly honest. I also do not believe, as a nation, there will be any hint of a good infrastructure to support this, ranges of said vehicles are nowhere near where they need to be at this point in time. I live in rural Suffolk and public transport barely exists, most journeys are also made on B-roads so our cars are critical to us."
Louise says they don’t have any EV charging on their petrol filling station in Halesworth because it’s a very rural site and "electric cars are not a thing around here". Anyone in the area wanting to charge an EV can go to Hammonds’ Nissan dealership. "We have three charging points at our Nissan site as they have an electric vehicle in their range," however Louise adds that the chargers are rarely used.
Meanwhile, Peter Hockenhull, chairman of Hockenhull Garages, is not convinced about EVs and believes there will be a rethink on the banning on the sale of new diesel cars because with AdBlue, they are cleaner than unleaded-fuelled cars. Peter has an electric charger installed at just one of his 11 sites on the main road into Corby and he says ’it’s ticking over’.
"With EV charging, a lot of thought needs to go into the demographics of a site.
"If you’re trading on a non-transient, localised site most of the people living there would be charging at home.
"At the moment it’s a Catch 22 situation. Do you make a huge investment and wait for the market to catch up with you or do you sign up with a charging supplier for 10 years, for a very small return?
"We are currently building a new site, which will open in April. We went to Western Power and asked them about EV charging. They wanted £80k to supply us with a sub-station then it was £20k per dispenser, so for a local site to get up and running today would cost £120k.
"If you’re on a transient site, on a main road that runs from London to Scotland, or on a motorway services, that’s probably fine but not for a local site. That said, we are putting cabling into our new site so if I am wrong about this, we are prepared to put EV charging in."
Since its initial announcement about bringing forward the end of the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans, the government has announced that it is seeking views on: the phase-out date; the definition of what should be phased out; barriers to achieving the above proposals; the impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society; and what measures are required by government and others to achieve the earlier phase-out date. You can email email@example.com; the consultation closes at 11.45pm on May 29, 2020.
Meanwhile, Graham Kennedy believes one of the main problems with EV charging is ’dwell time’: "We couldn’t operate with vehicles parking on our forecourt for longer than a few minutes," he says. But if a forecourt has one of BP Chargemaster’s 150kW ultra-fast chargers EV drivers would not need to be on the site for long as a 10-minute charge would give them about 100 miles of range.
The company’s focus is on more ultra-fast chargers targeting the next generation of cars and by next generation, Tom Callow, director of communication and strategy at BP Chargemaster, says they mean cars that are coming out this year and next.
"Our USP is speed of charge, with 10 minutes giving you 100 miles of range.
"No one can categorically state that 10 minutes gives you 100 miles but it is a good ballpark figure and it’s a good, acceptable amount. Plus dwell time of 10-15 minutes is acceptable.
"Consumers don’t want to spend 45 minutes on a forecourt and forecourt operators don’t want that either," says Callow.
The first 150kW units were installed at BP Cranford in Hounslow last August, and were followed by four 150kW units installed at BP Hammersmith (London’s first ultra-fast public charging hub) and chargers at BP Colchester and BP SF Malpas.
At the time of writing, BP has 18 ultrafast chargers live across seven forecourts as well as 20 or so sites in the ’installation phase’. By the end of the year they hope to have between 50 and 60 sites either live or in the ’installation phase’. Callow continues: "Some people believe rapid charging is a bad idea so we have a mixed network with a mixed infrastructure with different speeds for different needs. It’s got to be the right fit for the location."
Proving this point is BP Chargemaster’s link up with Mitchells & Butlers pubs and restaurants where 200 50kW Ultracharge chargers are being installed. The slower 50kW chargers have been chosen as people spend more time in a pub or restaurant than a forecourt. As for dealers contemplating installing EV charging, Callow says they understand different people are in different positions.
"Some dealers are investing in infrastructure, grid connections etc but others are looking for funded solutions or co-investment. We are in discussion with dealers about this. Clearly there will be an opportunity for BP Chargemaster to be present across company owned and dealer forecourts, where appropriate and where possible. We are going to do some dealer sites. But if any dealer is in any doubt, I’d urge them to talk to us."
Another company that’s keen for dealers to talk to them is Gilbarco Veeder-Root. Graham Tunks, e-mobility specialist, business development manager (Europe), at the firm says: "We’re excited to be in a position where we can help deliver the charging infrastructure necessary to meet the changing needs of the UK and Europe’s drivers. We are already equipped to supply, expertly install and operate EV charge points, as well as serve as a consultative point for forecourt owners. With our extensive knowledge in forecourt installations, we bring unique synergies, enabling our customers to serve existing fuel-powered vehicles as well as EVs.
"Talk to us to understand what your options are. There are various types of EV charger available on the market today, offering different charging speeds, from slower AC ’trickle’ chargers through to DC Ultra Fast Chargers capable of keeping up with the demands of busy motorists on the road. We can guide you through the complete process, from the initial assessments and selection process, through to installations and network management. We can deliver a full feasibility study, to find how much power is available locally to you, the ideal positioning of chargers including planning of routes/layout it needs to take and all the installation work. All of this comes with the reassurance that Gilbarco Veeder-Root understands the importance of forecourt safety and regulations better than anyone else."
Tunks believes that the charging infrastructure needs to increase to encourage more to people make the switch to an EV. "Seeing charging points readily available will instil confidence in drivers. Imagine if every forecourt has this service, it will remove any range anxieties. After all, everyone knows where their local petrol station is."
In addition to that, he says there needs to be a simpler payment method for drivers. "Gilbarco Veeder-Root has just launched its smart-charging ready, rapid and ultra-rapid chargers. These feature a Tap & Go functionality."
Michelle Machesney, business development director, TSG, adds: "We would advise petrol retailers to consider their options as soon as possible for accommodating EV charging stations on their sites to allow them to plan for both the infrastructure and financial investment required. TSG can provide both installation and maintenance services, which our EV experts tailor to suit our customers needs, requirements and budget."
EVs in the news
77% of drivers polled by LV+ General think UK driving tests should be updated to include electric cars. More than 2,000 motorists were quizzed for the survey but only 150 of them owned an electric vehicle. Most (87%) said they hadn’t been behind the wheel of an EV and many were concerned about the differences between driving a car with an ICE and an EV.
Online searches for EVs rose by 162% after the government proposed banning petrol and diesel cars by 2035, according to the Financial Times.
The number of EV charge points at supermarkets has doubled in the past two years according to Zap-Map and the RAC with 542 more chargers installed by supermarkets. This takes the total number of chargers on supermarket sites to 1,115.
The Mini Electric hits the market this month. David George, director of Mini in the UK, said it marked the start of a new era for the Cowley plant where the car is built.
Gloucestershire Police is adding 75 new fully electric vehicles to its fleet. The Nissan cars and vans will be used by local investigation teams rather than as response vehicles.
Enabling an electric future
This year is being hailed as the year of the electric vehicle, according to Sam Shaybani, director at The EV Network. "Almost all car manufacturers have announced extensive line-ups of electric models to be released over the coming 12 months, including Ford with a range of 14 models to be unveiled this year. To add to this, the UK government is proving itself to be extremely proactive in the decarbonisation of transport by bringing the ban on new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars forward from 2040 to 2035, with discussions taking place over a further date change to 2032.
"Range anxiety is diminishing with cars capable of ranges comparable to petrol equivalents being released almost monthly. The new questions regarding EV ownership are: How fast can I recharge? and Will the charging infrastructure be ready? Most early EV adopters had to be able to charge at home as a backstop due to the lack of fast, reliable public charging infrastructure. The next generation of EV drivers will expect recharging their vehicles to feel as close to filling up with petrol as possible, although they will also have access to more convenient options to ’fill up’ at locations such as food and beverage drive thrus, retail destinations and car parks. Today, drivers are shopping around for the cheapest fuel, tomorrow drivers will be searching for the fastest fuel."
The EV Network develops, funds and constructs EV charging hubs and works with landlords to determine the most appropriate EV strategy for them. Shaybani says they offer competitive rental proposals, profit share arrangements.
A critical service to drivers
The view from ENGIE EV Solutions is that the government’s aim to bring forward the ban of sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles is definitely a good thing, but it needs to be managed carefully. "The government must provide the support required across multiple industries refuelling infrastructure, legislation changes for corporate and fleet vehicles, and drivers need to be incentivised to make the change to zero carbon transport by financial gain such as reduced or no vehicle tax on electric vehicles," says Alex Bamberg, managing director at ENGIE EV Solutions.
He says the UK’s EV fuelling infrastructure is expanding but must continue to meet demand. "The GeniePoint Network is nationwide and our aim is to give our drivers the confidence to make the change to EVs by providing reliable charging stations and 24/7 customer care.
His advice to dealers is: "Ensure that EV charging is provided as another critical service to drivers making the change to zero carbon transport, and that the facilities grow in line with and ahead of demand."
EG Group is just one of the ENGIE EV Solutions’ satisfied customers. Mohammed Patel, head of energy and sustainability, EG Group, says: "We wanted to install EV charging to ensure we are future-proofing our forecourts by offering a range of refuelling to service the cars of today and tomorrow.
"We worked with ENGIE EV Solutions to install their GeniePoint Network chargers as we found them to be technologically advanced and extremely reliable."