Oxford

Battery-swap technology is the potential cure for electric car range anxiety

I’m in a hurry. I’m due to check in at Amsterdam airport in less than an hour, it is more than 60 miles away and my battery-powered NIO ET5 Touring is down to less than 15 per cent range – not enough to get there.

I pull into the recharge station, there’s a queue, this is going to be painful… Or is it?

I park alongside the NIO battery-swap station [1]and Nomi, the digital assistant, springs into action, deftly reversing this large, heavy estate into a box 20 metres by 10 and informing me I might experience some unexpected bangs and thumps.

This is the first time I’ve ever done this and I’m thinking of all the ways it could go wrong.

Whirrs, thumps and whizzing sounds follow as the car is lifted off the ground. More noise, the car shakes a little and the dashboard screens go dark as the systems shut down. Repeat this process in reverse and the screens light up again. Then Nomi is back, encouraging me to get on with my journey. 

The entire process of swapping the 100kWh battery takes less than five minutes The entire process of swapping the 100kWh battery takes less than five minutes Credit: Eric Van Vuuren

The entire process of swapping the 100kWh battery has taken four minutes 37 seconds and the 90 per cent full replacement battery pack is displaying a range of 256 miles; I hustle the NIO out of the car park past the queue of EVs waiting to charge; I might make my flight after all.

Alternative to queuing

For those more used to the mostly depressing and time-consuming process of recharging an EV during a journey, this battery swapping malarkey could be a big selling point for the NIO ET5 Touring.

Mind you, it’s a hefty €63,900 (£54,500) to €72,900 (£62,250) to join this exclusive club if you buy the car, or €51,900 (£44,300) outright for the battery-swap model. It’s €169 to €289 (£144-£246) a month for the battery hire depending on its size, with two free battery swaps a month and €10 (£8.54) for each additional swap.

Note the prices are in euros, that’s because despite the marque launched in European London in 2016 with the NIO EP9 supercar, regular NIO cars are still not available in the UK.

What is NIO?

Formed in 2014, NIO is a Shanghai EV manufacturer[2], which committed itself to battery-swap technology in 2020 with investment from battery manufacturer Catl and others.

It has already built almost 450,000 EVs and there are more than 2,000 battery swap stations in China and 35 in Europe. It already sells its five-strong range in Norway, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden, with plans to expand into the UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria in the unspecified future – think 2025.

This journey hasn’t been an easy one. The technology is expensive and costs involved in running pilot schemes and holding banks of high-capacity car batteries all over the country has made huge demands on capital. It was these sorts of pressures that forced a former exercise in battery swapping by Shai Agassi’s Better Place into bankruptcy in May 2013 and the idea of selling a car that doesn’t actually have a battery to its title put paid to Renault’s plans for the same.

NIO has not been without its issues either; it was almost bankrupt in 2020 and bailed out by a host of Chinese investors including the government of Hefei, which owns a 25 per cent stake.

The NIO ET5 Touring The taxi-style lights sticking out of the roof are far from handsome and make the car look like a London cab Credit: Eric Van Vuuren

There is a fair bit of jam tomorrow in NIO’s plans, with forthcoming agreements with car manufacturers Changan Automobile[3], Geely, JAC and Chery Automobile to share its battery swap stations. Then there are the plans for a small car, the Firefly, to compete with Volkswagen’s ID.2 and even another marque altogether, which will be known as Alps, to compete with Tesla’s Model 3[4]. It is difficult to judge how real these are.

NIO doesn’t actually build its own cars, factoring out production to Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC). NIO Design is carried out in California and Munich, the European headquarters is in Holland, while European research and development takes place in Frankfurt and Oxford.

The car

First impressions are of a large estate, gently rounded and well proportioned (4,790mm in length on a 2,888mm wheelbase and 1,960mm wide), but rather generic, with curious horns and a taxi-style light sticking out of the roof at the top of the windscreen. Billed as “crafted watchtowers” in the blurb, these are the Lidar “cameras” and other sensors, which facilitate the auto-pilot self-driving systems. They are far from handsome and make the car look like a London taxi, but we’re going to have to get used to them. Volvo’s forthcoming EX90 giant SUV will also have these protuberances for its advanced driver assist, for example.

Inside the ET5 looks and feels very grown up but very grey. It is well lit though, with light pouring into the dimmable 1.35m2 sunroof. It also seems nicely put together, even if the quality of the materials declines the lower and farther back you go. It has been cleverly designed so that interior surface changes are overlapping, which eases the strain of the need for tight production tolerances, but leaves a lot of places to catch dust.

Inside the ET5 looks and feels very grown up ... but very grey Inside the ET5 looks and feels very grown up ... but very grey Credit: Eric Van Vuuren

Nomi the digital assistant (a €700 option) sits in an auto-rotating pod in the middle of the fascia like the add-on rev counter on a Sixties American muscle car. Nomi’s English is far from great, but her algorithm is learning fast: when it comes to the UK, estuary English, North Welsh, Cornish and Yorkshire accents will eventually be understood. Here we might observe that Google can do most of this already.

There’s a big square touchscreen in the centre of the dash, but before it gets too Tesla-minimalist, there’s also an oblong screen acting as the instrument binnacle in front of the driver giving speed, range directions and so on. There are also steering column stalks for indicators and wipers.

There are large, comfy electrically adjustable seats, but they’re mounted too high, which amplifies the chassis movements so you feel like the ship’s boy in the crow’s nest. This also makes the windscreen top feel very low, while views to the rear through the tiny back window are pretty useless.

The battery itself needs a strong and heavy frame and an equally strong frame to accommodate it The boot has a capacity of 450 litres with an additional 42 litres under the floor Credit: Eric Van Vuuren

There is all the equipment you might expect of this class of £50 to £70-plus grand car, but not quite the panache of some of the opposition. It is a question of taste, and there are those who will love the stripped-back feel of the NIO, but younger owners – particularly those from the Far East – tend to prefer a bit more drama in their car interiors.

In the back, there is enough room for one six-footer to sit behind the other with leg and headroom to spare and while the boot is only 450 litres, the rear seats fold 40/20/40 per cent to provide up to 1,300 litres, with an additional 42 litres under the boot floor.

Under the skin

With four-wheel drive, the total power output is 483bhp and 516lbft, which gives a top speed limited to 124mph and 0-62mph in four seconds. The front motor is a 201bhp induction motor, magnet-free but not as efficient as the 282bhp permanent-magnet motor in the rear.

There is a choice of two batteries. The smaller 75kWh unit (with a 270-mile range) has a combination of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and lithium-ion nickel, manganese, cobalt (Li-ion NMC) cells. The larger 100kWh unit (with a 348-mile range) is pure Li-ion NMC. 

On the way is a 150kWh unit, which will be swappable for those planning longer journeys. The trouble is, during testing in China, drivers didn’t like returning these super-long range units, so NIO has to coerce them with points for the NIO shopping store, which is a bit like a whizz-bang version of the old Green Shield Stamps.

On the road

Despite its blistering 4sec 0-62mph time, the 483bhp ET5 feels brisk rather than super-fast, but the progression of the accelerator pedal makes it easy to modulate the speed. There’s no sense of a runaway train as there can be with some powerful rivals, though the rear squats quite markedly under hard acceleration.

On Holland’s heavily policed motorway network (so think a steady 60mph) the ride is generally good, though concrete road surfaces are felt as well as heard inside.

At 2,285kg, this is a heavy machine and it feels it at the wheel with a slight heaving sensation over long bumps and ponderous turn into corners, not helped by a vague off-centre response to the steering.

English: 'At 2,285kg, this is a heavy machine and it feels it' English: 'At 2,285kg, this is a heavy machine and it feels it'

The grip is pretty good, though the body rolls through corners which makes the process feel quite dramatic. The brakes are good and the combination of friction linings and regeneration is well mixed, though our test car had a grinding noise when the brakes were applied, which didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

The pilot system and cruise control might have a load more sensors than anyone else, but they don’t feel particularly advanced. The system doesn’t allow a seamless overtake on the motorway, braking and shunting its way past that truck in the inside lane even if you are indicating. Nor is the steering wheel sensor very sensitive, so you have to periodically waggle the wheel to inform the car you are still there.

On a relatively gentle half day with the car, I saw efficiency of 3.2 miles per kilowatt hour against an official WLTP figure of 3.5. That meant I had a real range of 320 miles against the published 348 miles. It’s not staggeringly efficient then, while using the UK Government’s latest figures, the well-to-wheels CO2 emissions are 36.9g/km.

Verdict

Swappable batteries are interesting technology and seemingly combine the virtues of charging at home or during a journey (at up to 100kW) and also swapping on the move, but they aren’t a panacea.

The battery itself needs a strong and heavy frame. Cell-to-body technologies such as being planned by BMW for next year’s Neue Klasse model will save a lot of weight and in theory will charge more quickly.  [5]

But a battery swap system eliminates range anxiety and as one German journalist put it: “Now I can drive with the Porsches and Mercedes in the fast lane without worrying about range, I just get to the next swap station and I’m out as fast as them.”

The ET5 is a bit dull, comfortable, but flawed in places and it seems like a car for wealthy people who need to drive long distances, but don’t like cars very much.

All the same, like BYD with its innovative “blade” batteries, NIO has picked a technology and is committed to introducing it to the world. Mark this company down as one to watch.

The facts

On test: NIO ET5 Touring 100kWh battery swap.

Body style: Battery-electric estate car.

On sale: Estimated 2025 in the UK.

How much? From £54,500 to £72,900 including battery, £44,300 for the battery swap model with £144 to £246 for battery hire.

How fast? Top speed 124mph, 0-60mph in 4.0sec.

Maximum power/torque: 483bhp/516lb ft.

How economical? 3.5m/kWh (WLTP combined), 3.2m/kWh on test.

Electric powertrain: 75kWh LFP and Li-ion NMC cell, or 100kWh li-ion NMC (as tested), twin electric motors with stepdown transmissions, four-wheel drive.

Electric range: 348 miles (WLTP combined), 320 miles on test.

Battery swap time: 4min 37sec.

CO2 emissions: Zero at tailpipe, 36.9g/km (well-to-wheels)

VED: £0.

Warranty: 10 years/unlimited mileage.

References

  1. ^ NIO battery-swap station (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  2. ^ NIO is a Shanghai EV manufacturer (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  3. ^ Changan Automobile (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  4. ^ Tesla’s Model 3 (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  5. ^ Neue Klasse model (www.telegraph.co.uk)

How are Europe’s car manufacturers utilising different transport modes? We talk to ECG Executive Director Mike Sturgeon

In 2022, 10.9 million passenger cars were made in the European Union. Together with non-EU countries, Europe as a whole thus represents one of the world’s most important regions for vehicle production.

All of these vehicles naturally need to be transported from north to south and east to west and vice versa, with just about every transport mode possible being utilised.

So how does the vehicle logistics picture look at the start of 2024? Are we observing any significant modal shifts, and if so, where?

To find out, we spoke to Mike Sturgeon, Executive Director of ECG – the Association of European Vehicle Logistics.

Automotive industry keen to use rail

When it comes to land transport, Sturgeon stresses that the automotive industry is still utilising rail transport whenever possible, and is “better than most” at maximising rail and minimising road.

“The decision on mode is made by the vehicle manufacturers, the OEMs. The OEMs will tender a route, and they’ll say whether they want to go by road, rail or sea. They design their own networks and generally they don’t use road unless they have to,” said Sturgeon.

Rail freight challenges

However, ECG’s Executive Director added that it is difficult to see how the sector could use rail freight anymore than it is currently doing.

“If you look at how the OEMs maximise the use of rail, and accept that we can’t just lay new railway lines wherever we want, it’s hard to see how the vehicle logistics industry could make any more significant use of rail,” said Surgeon.

The reasons for this, as Sturgeon explains, are many. One of them is the relocation of automotive factories to Central European countries over the last 25 years or so, and a lack of rail lines running from east to west.

More recently, Germany’s plans to upgrade its long-neglected rail infrastructure has been causing a major headache due to different routes being out of service.

“Of course, we’ve really felt the pain in Germany. Volkswagen, for example, a major automotive rail user, were forced to significantly reduce volumes because of the infrastructure projects in the country. The impact of these projects in Germany will likely last for more than 10 years and that’s a disaster for everybody, for Volkswagen and the industry,” stressed Sturgeon.

The disruptions and delays will be something the automotive industry logisticians will have to take into account for the next decade. Sturgeon was at pains to point out the massive impact these infrastructure works are having on rail freight services.

“Trains are having to travel 30% further to get from A to B. We’re looking at a 10-year plus project; the impact is going to be felt for a long time. One unofficial estimate is that at least 50% of the rail track in Germany must be replaced, which will probably cost more than the €100 billion that’s been allocated. I think they’re looking at over 1,000 infrastructure projects where a section of track will be closed for 6 weeks or more. The scale of it is enormous, and if the trains have to travel 30% further, we’ll need 30% more trains, wagons and drivers, which we don’t have.” said Sturgeon.

Elsewhere, there are more long-term challenges in cross-border rail freight caused by different gauges and different voltages. There’s a shortage of locomotive drivers as well. In addition to all of this, there are issues pertaining specifically to the transport of vehicles by rail.

According to Sturgeon, the automotive sector mostly only uses block trains (as opposed to wagon groups), because if there are coal wagons on the end of a train, vehicles cannot be unloaded. This means that rail freight trains aren’t often used unless they can be filled – meaning a load of 220 vehicles or so.

Another issue is the cost associated with the loading and unloading of the vehicles themselves:

“In our industry, every vehicle is being driven on and off the train. The loading costs are relatively high as there’s a lot of labour involved, so a general rule of thumb is that anything below about 250 kilometres is probably not economical to do by rail,” Sturgeon told Trans.INFO.

There are exceptions though, said Sturgeon, such as shuttle services like those operated from the Mini car factory in Oxford to move vehicles to ports for export by sea.

Another problem highlighted by Sturgeon is that the automotive industry, due to its relatively high level of unpredictability, is not seen as being top priority for rail freight operators. This can often mean that there are limited slot times available.

“No such a thing as ‘reverse modal shift’”

One thing that Surgeon is evidently unimpressed with is the use of the term “reverse modal shift” to describe movement from rail freight back to road freight. The term has been fairly prominent during recent discussions concerning EU policies designed to foster decarbonisation in logistics. A number of rail freight organisations have also used the term in their research.

“There’s no such thing as ‘reverse modal shift’. They’ve formed a whole language around pushing things onto rail. Modal shift can be between any modes, but they only use the term in the sense of road to rail. Why?” asked Surgeon.

Elaborating on the use of the reverse modal shift tag, the ECG Executive Director said that some rail lobby groups are “fighting against anything that makes road freight more efficient”.

Sturgeon added that projected growth indicates that all transport modes will need to be utilised more in order to get freight moved.

“Rail is mostly at capacity in Europe at the moment, and what they don’t understand is, and you’ve only got to go back to the last white paper on transport to see this, the projected growth in freight is such that both road and rail freight will need to increase. Rail can’t handle everything, and yet they’re still trying to prevent road transport from being more efficient. If you look at the numbers, every mode has to carry more to get everything moved.”

Sea freight

Meanwhile, the good news, according to Sturgeon, is that the long term picture on the sea freight side appears a little brighter.

“There’s hundreds of new ships starting to be delivered and they’re already coming to market now. If it wasn’t for the problems in the Red Sea right now, we would probably already be starting to see some balancing up of supply and demand on the deep sea shipping side.”

Sadly, based on the prediction that the situation in the Red Sea could persist for several more months, Sturgeon indicated that it could now be late 2025 before deep sea capacities start to reach some sort of balance.

Road freight

What about road freight then? Sturgeon told Trans.INFO that “road is getting back to a reasonable balance at the moment, partly due to lower demand.”

Another reason is the release in capacity created by the OEMs winding down the level of trucks they had chartered full time:

“The majority of the OEMs chartered dedicated trucks just to secure capacity to get their own product shifted. It has been expensive for them, but they did it due to the lack of resources out there. Moreover, it has impacted the efficiency of the market because those trucks have mostly been full in one direction and empty in the other, which is not how they would normally operate. That has robbed the market of capacity,” said Sturgeon.

Sturgeon continued:

“They’re starting to unwind all of those now because they don’t need them. The market will thus immediately make the existing capacity more efficient because the empty running will reduce significantly as a result. From the start of this year, we’ve already started to see that finally happen on the back of slightly weaker demand.”

The ECG Executive Director added that many more car transporters are on order which will also help boost capacity.

Lorry crash on A34 near Didcot causes rush hour delay

The crash happened on the northbound carriageway just before the Milton Interchange near Didcot[1].

Police attended the incident closing one lane which also disrupted the A4130 from Didcot and roads towards Milton Hill.

Drivers were brought down to an average speed of 10 mph between the Chilton Interchange and the Marcham Interchange while the incident was dealt with.

Delays on the A34 were made worse after a vehicle broke down on the A34 southbound at South Hinkey blocking one lane.

Last week, emergency services rushed to a two-vehicle collision during Thursday morning's rush hour on the A34 between junction nine of the M40 and Weston-on-the-Green.

The driver of the car which crashed into the hedges managed to crawl out of the vehicle before the blue light services arrived at the scene. 

It is understood there were no serious injuries and an eyewitness said the car which came off the road was a Tesla.

References

  1. ^ Didcot (www.heraldseries.co.uk)
  2. ^ Car smashes through front of home in dramatic crash (www.oxfordmail.co.uk)

HTC Group acquires Barnes DAF

13:00 Wed 14th Feb 2024 | Posted By UKHAULIER

DAF Dealer group, HTC Group, has completed the acquisition of Barnes DAF, the long-standing and successful DAF Dealer with locations in Guildford and Shoreham.

HTC is one of the largest dealer groups in the DAF Network, adding to its existing sites in Heathrow, Dunstable, Park Royal, Reading, Oxford, Croydon, Belvedere and Hemel Hempstead, and taking its total dealer points to ten.

The acquisition includes transfer of all staff from Barnes DAF, thus ensuring continuity for customers across Sales, Service and Parts departments. The move also attests to HTC’s ambitions for growth in the south of England, and bolstering its already excellent reputation for high-quality customer support.

Peter Gibbons, Managing Director at HTC Group, said, “I’m thrilled to witness the growth of our business and extend a warm welcome to our new colleagues. The addition of the two dealerships enhances our DAF representation, reinforcing our commitment to providing top-tier service to our customers.”

John McMenamin, Dealer Development Director at DAF Trucks, added, “Barnes DAF has established an excellent reputation for the DAF marque locally, and, with all staff transferring across, the team’s dedication to customer support will move forward under a different banner. It’s crucial that our customers are unaffected by this move,” he said, “and I know that service levels will remain at a very high level under the guidance of HTC.”

Manchester Oxford Road Station Gets ?2.7m Upgrade

Network Rail[1] has announced a £2.7 million investment to upgrade Manchester Oxford Road station, aiming to improve the experience for commuters and visitors traveling through the city centre.

The project, set to begin in March 2024, will involve a redesign of the station's front entrance, installation of new ticket barriers including an accessible option, and relocation of the ticket office window to the front of the building.

It is part of a wider £72 million refurbishment programme of some of Manchester’s key rail stations, including the delivery of a new platform at Salford Crescent which replaced the previously planned new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly. It also follows from the £7.3 million renovation of Salford Central station which began in 2022 and was completed last year.

gAYNOR qUINN QUOTE

"We are pleased to announce these upgrades at Manchester Oxford Road station, which are part of our ongoing commitment to improving passengers' experience," said Gaynor Quinn, Sponsor for Network Rail. "The new ticket barriers and relocated ticket office will streamline passenger flow and create a more user-friendly environment for everyone."

Manchester’s Oxford Road rail station is the third busiest in Manchester after both Victoria and Piccadilly stations and sits next to the Grade 2 viaduct which carries the southern Manchester line.

Network Rail is working to minimise disruption during construction. Most work will be carried out at night while the station is closed. Passengers may experience some construction activity during the day, but the station will remain open for travel.

Craig Harrop, Regional Director at Northern[2], expressed his appreciation for passengers' patience during the renovation. "These improvements are set to make a huge difference for our colleagues and customers using Manchester Oxford Road station," he said. "We thank our customers for their patience while this work is carried out and look forward to the finished result."

The project is part of a wider collaboration between Network Rail, the Department for Transport, Manchester City Council, and train operators to enhance the station and its services.

Photo Credits: Network Rail/iStock

References

  1. ^ Network Rail (www.networkrail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Northern (www.northernrailway.co.uk)

Tesla moves into new Bicester technology park building | thisisoxfordshire

The automotive company will take up 24,000 sq ft, at Albion Land's Catalyst Bicester park while the unnamed firm will inhabit 29,600 sq ft.

The new tenants are part of the site's phase two, with their bespoke units now finalised and handed over.

The new occupants will join Evolito, an aerospace company, and Yasa, an EV motor company, which Mercedes Benz owns, at the site.

Positioned off the southern gateway to the town off the A41, Catalyst Bicester also hosts a David Lloyd Leisure facility and a Holiday Inn hotel.

To date, six buildings have been constructed and occupied or handed over, with an additional two under construction, set to be finished by the summer.

The anonymous design and manufacturing firm has also pledged to occupy building seven, intending to make Catalyst Bicester its central technological facility.

Building eight, with a footprint of 38,710 sq ft, is under construction as a speculative project due to the demand from the technology sector.

Once completed, Catalyst Bicester will hold more than 400,000 sq ft of hybrid structures designed for advanced manufacturing sectors and technology.

Simon Parsons, director of Albion Land, said: "Momentum is building at Catalyst Bicester with the park’s excellent blend of occupiers, location, power, amenity, and facilities.

"It’s a sign of the strength of the park and the location that both Tesla and a further tech-driven design and manufacturing company have chosen Catalyst Bicester and we look forward to attracting more occupiers in the next phase of development.

"We expect our speculative building eight to let readily and look forward to bringing forward further phases of development in 2024 to meet sustained occupier demand."

Catalyst Bicester already has "full and implementable" planning permission in place as well as substantial secured power connections.

It can accommodate occupier requirements of up to 120,000 sq ft and offer certainty on handover dates.

CBRE and Colliers International acting for Albion Land, Knight Frank representing Tesla, and Savills working on behalf of the anonymous design and manufacturing company are the letting agents involved in the deal.

As a town with significant road and rail linkages, Bicester's progress and its impending connection to the Oxford-Cambridge East West Rail line contribute to the interest in this town, according to Albion Land.

Work on Catalyst Bicester, a £1000 million project, started in 2021.

At that point, its developers said it would provide workspace for up to 1,750 new jobs.

References

  1. ^ Warning to drivers as 29 flood alerts in place in Oxfordshire (www.oxfordmail.co.uk)

Tesla takes first steps into Oxfordshire at Bicester site

A CGI image of how Catalyst Bicester Technology Park will look once complete i(Image: Albion Land)/i

A CGI image of how Catalyst Bicester Technology Park will look once complete (Image: Albion Land)

Tesla is setting up its first Oxfordshire site at a technology park in Bicester[1], alongside an undisclosed design and manufacturing company.

The automotive company will take up 24,000 sq ft, at Albion Land's Catalyst Bicester park while the unnamed firm will inhabit 29,600 sq ft.

The new tenants are part of the site's phase two, with their bespoke units now finalised and handed over.

The new occupants will join Evolito, an aerospace company, and Yasa, an EV motor company, which Mercedes Benz owns, at the site.

Updates for train station upgrade projects in Reading

There are a lot of benefits to travelling by train. You can sit back and read, do some work on your laptop, catch up on emails or just look out the window and take in the view as you speed along to your destination.

It is not, however, always as smooth as that, and significant investment is needed in our railway network to improve the experience for the millions of us who use it.

We are fortunate enough to have four railway stations in the borough (and several more just beyond our formal boundaries, but in the urban area). As such, the Council has been a vocal advocate for Reading’s rail users.

We have worked with Network Rail, Great Western Railway, and Department for Transport on the major upgrade of Reading Station, the creation of a new station in Green Park, and improvement to existing local stations.

The latest project to get under way in Reading is the installation of three lifts at Tilehurst station.

Residents have been waiting a long time for this upgrade which will be hugely welcome by travellers who have mobility issues, parents with pushchairs and passengers with heavy luggage or shopping.

There may be some noise disturbance for nearby households, but Network Rail contractors should keep this to a minimum and have written to neighbours with more details about the schedule. The benefits of this project should be enjoyed by all passengers by later in the year.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for Network Rail to receive official approval to go ahead and open the new station building at Reading West.

The smart new building on Oxford Road contains a ticket office, toilets, and retail space. The project has also delivered new ticket gates, improved lighting, and CCTV cameras to significantly improve safety and security.

Unfortunately, the project has not included the installation of passenger lifts, which has been a long-term ambition of the Council.

Network Rail tells us that the installation of lifts at Reading West would involve rebuilding the train platforms which currently makes the work prohibitively costly for them.

However, the latest station upgrade has been ‘future proofed’ for the installation of lifts in the future, and we will continue to lobby government, our local MPs, and Network Rail for funding to deliver new platforms and lifts to make Reading West station accessible to all as soon as possible.

In May last year we saw the opening of Reading’s first new railway station since Reading West opened in 1906. Green Park Station provides an excellent travel choice for local residents, commuters, and football fans going to the home of Reading FC.

The Council has also recently invested in local bus services to make it even easier for people to get to and from Green Park. Ultimately, we want to make multi-mode public transport as easy as possible – the full benefits of reducing congestion won’t be realised if people need to drive to railway stations to complete their journey.

These big projects can have their challenges and do not always happen as quickly as we would wish, but the Council remains committed to working with our rail partners and to push for continued improvements to Reading’s stations and train services.

References

  1. ^ Dates set to finally add lifts to Tilehurst train station (www.readingchronicle.co.uk)
  2. ^ Council leader celebrates opening of Green Park Station (www.readingchronicle.co.uk)

UK Electric Vehicle Industry – Battery half full, half empty or running …

The UK will phase-out new ICE vehicle sales by 2035, but an incoherent battery strategy puts the relevance of the UK automotive sector at risk 

Recent political events have highlighted the UK as a confusing place for investors interested in the country’s vehicle electrification story. While there are some reasons for optimism, this is marred by an insufficient automotive industrial/ battery strategy and underlines the lack of joined-up thinking between Government and industry bodies. 

Unless the UK can reclaim its leadership position on electric vehicle policy, supported by an automotive industrial strategy proportionate to the scale of transformation that the industry is undergoing, investors will instead continue to deploy significant capital in the EU or US (global annual EV capex of ~$400bn and growing), putting the UK automotive industry’s long-term future at risk including: 

  • Risking losing the 300,000 jobs in the UK automotive sector (direct and indirect). It is estimated that 200,000 jobs alone in UK are related to ICE engine manufacture and are at risk if the industry mishandles the shift to BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles). 
  • Missing out on creating equivalent skilled jobs in the battery supply chain. 
  • The UK becoming reliant on importing batteries for car manufacturing and other energy applications required as the economy decarbonises. 

Too much of the discussion today in the UK is hyper-tactical, for e.g. the monthly market share of BEVs, which is important but missing the bigger point. The world of automotive manufacturing has been upended for the first time in a century by the introduction of engines that need no oil and are faster and cheaper to run. Resisting this change, and not building a strategy to exploit it is mass-scale industrial folly. The UK needs to rethink its battery strategy as a priority.   

Policy Powers Progress 

At the UK Pavilion during COP28, there was much fanfare as the long deliberated Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate was put into UK law. Similar to the California ZEV mandate, this law obligates vehicle manufacturers to sell a minimum percentage of BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) into the UK per year.  

Starting this year, 22% of new UK cars sold by automakers must be zero emission, with the percentage rising to 80% by 2030, culminating in the complete ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035.  

The ZEV mandate is arguably a more effective mechanism to increase the sales of BEVs than the EU’s fleet average emissions targets. In the EU system the sale of new ICE vehicles is effectively banned by 2035, but until then there are various loopholes automakers use to lower fleet average emissions to meet compliance, including the sale of PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles), which emit many times more CO2 than stated in test conditions. 

The UK Government and policymakers should be applauded for handing the challenge to automakers to bring pure BEVs to market, however it should be noted that policy to end the sale of new ICE vehicles was watered down, with the ICE ban moved from 2030 to 2035. The UK thus moved from a leading player in the transition to zero emission vehicles, to one where targets are subject to uncertainty and change.  

This confusion has certainly influenced industry and consumer confidence, with electric vehicle sales declining 18% and 36% in November and December ‘23 respectively compared with a year earlier, according to data from New Automotive. However, 2023 electric car market share remains steady with 1 in every 6 cars sold being a BEV.  It could be argued that automakers deliberately held back the sale of BEVs at the end of 2023 to then register the BEV sale in 2024 as the UK ZEV mandate begins, but the fact remains that the UK has ceded its electric vehicle leadership due to the ICE ban shift from 2030 to 2035, adding uncertainty to the market. 

Figure 1: Monthly UK Battery Electric Vehicle Registrations 2022-2023 

Source: New Automotive 

UK battery strategy – A strategy out of time? 

The ZEV mandate has set the course for the UK automotive industry to a complete transition to BEV by 2035, however the absence of a supportive industrial/ battery strategy has slowed investment relative to other competing countries/ regions.  

High-cost energy, lengthy planning and less financial support have reduced the attraction of making the massive scale capital investment in UK battery supply chain, putting the industry in an increasingly weak competitive position.  

As the US and EU respectively unveiled the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) and the European Green Deal, in addition to China’s long-term plans to dominate BEV manufacturing, the UK was worryingly quiet about its plans to attract automotive investment, a historically strategic industry for the country.  

In a late reactionary move, the Government has unveiled electric vehicle sector investments from a handful of automakers. 

Table 1: UK Electric Vehicle Industry Investment Announcements – 2023 

OEM  Investment  Plant Location  Details  Tata/ Jaguar Land Rover  £4bn  Somerset  New battery gigafactory, JLR to be main offtaker of batteries  Nissan  £2bn  Sunderland  Vehicle production of 3 BEVs  BMW (Mini)  £600m  Oxford & Swindon  Vehicle production of 2 BEVs starting in 2026  Stellantis  £100m  Ellesmere Port  Announcement in 2021. Production of electric vans and cars from 2023. 
Source: Public information

The UK Government published its battery strategy in November 2023, but its attitude to the industry is akin to a venture capital (VC) approach. The problem with this approach is that the UK needs gigafactory mass-scale manufacturing now – not with small-scale funding spread thinly. That VC R&D phase has gone – we are in mass manufacturing mode now, and a very different approach needed.  

The current UK Government’s battery/ automotive strategy, or lack thereof, has led to the demise of two domestic battery manufacturers, namely AMTE Power and Britishvolt.  

The failure of Britishvolt in early 2023 illustrates the limitations of the UK’s VC approach to developing a domestic battery supply chain. The project was reported to have made good progress towards developing a high-performance battery cell, however the absence of any significant customer orders meant the project was not able to secure the necessary multi-billion-pound investment to allow the final cell development and construction of a gigafactory to manufacture at scale. 

It is well known that automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) take a very conservative approach to working with new suppliers, and for a component as critical as the battery the supplier approval process would take many years. There is almost no likelihood that an established OEM would place significant orders from a start-up with no proven ability to manufacture a safe and reliable cell at scale. A project of this magnitude needed to have the participation of an established battery technology partner to de-risk the proposition for OEMs and allow the project to accumulate firm commitments in the scale necessary to green-light the final large investment.  

The UK battery strategy for local supply chain is now out of time and the end-to-end supply chain approach at limited VC scale is misinterpreting the current state of the market. Huge global players such as CATL and BYD are already dominating lithium-ion battery manufacturing and BEVs with vast industrial scale investment. Both Chinese companies will also construct sodium-ion battery gigafactories this year – this technology replaces lithium with a sodium cathode, reducing costs. This leads these companies into an adjacent high-growth industry: grid storage. As electricity becomes the dominant energy system, the UK risks losing twice in a row (EVs and grid storage) if it doesn’t have a coherent battery strategy.  

Move to the Fast Lane: From Battery R&D to Battery Manufacturing  

Towards the end of 2023, the UK Government announced it will support the development and manufacturing of batteries and will make available an additional £2bn of support between 2025 and 2030, but this level of investment is tiny compared to an estimated $0.5-1 trillion investment required by 2030 to meet global EV demand. And these UK funds will be spread across the value chain, from upstream mining projects, to midstream processing of minerals, and gigafactories.  

The UK is estimated to need 100 GWh of battery manufacturing capacity by 2030, doubling to 200 GWh by 2040, to support the growth in UK EV production and domestic job creation. But the UK has only 2GW of capacity today with a pipeline of 65GW of announced capacity. Each gigafactory is a large, multi £bn capital project with a minimum 3-year lead time.  

Given the higher level of incentives available elsewhere, it will be challenging for the UK to close the battery gap, increasing risk for the UK automotive industry that electrification is easier elsewhere; before the UK has shown it can provide an environment that supports a next-gen battery ecosystem and exposed to the vulnerability of a long supply chain for critical imported battery technologies. 

Figure 2: Global Battery Manufacturing Capacity by 2030 (TWh) 

Source: Benchmark Minerals

Insufficient UK domestic battery manufacturing capacity will mean importing batteries from the EU and beyond, lengthening supply chains and making the UK an increasingly unattractive location for just in time (JIT) manufacturing. 

Putting the UK’s Electric Vehicle sector back on track 

The shift to electric vehicles will be fast and non-linear – mixed electric vehicle sector messaging from the UK Government will not help investor confidence. A lack of automotive/battery strategy is limiting the UK’s attractiveness for domestic mass-scale battery manufacturing, while large global players deploy capital to take advantage of this growing market. 

For the UK to regain electric vehicle leadership and provide assurances which will facilitate investment, Carbon Tracker suggests the following strategic moves: 

  • Policy: The UK Government should re-instate the 2030 phase out of new ICE vehicle sales. Prioritise supporting a growing electric vehicle market, to enable growth, job creation and to meet climate goals, and accelerate local future skills development. It should also set out its vision of why this is such a core industry focus for mid-21st century growth in the UK. 
  • Industry:  The UK Government, OEMs and UK automotive businesses should look to leverage and collaborate with strategic battery/EV manufacturers, and to stop focussing on direct competition with small-scale investments. Offering financial incentives from government to established, large-scale battery manufacturers will encourage these companies to set up battery manufacturing in the UK, leveraging currently available battery technology. Partnering with these companies will allow UK businesses to be a core part of the global EV supply chain. Long-term this will support the creation of expertise in battery technology, installation, and assembly – a core skill for the UK transportation sectors, and allowing an option to access the growing grid storage battery expansion that also lies ahead. 

 

End Section  

 

A34 closed near Oxford as traffic delays following crash

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A34 Oxford multi-vehicle collision statement from police

The crash, involving a lorry and two cars, occurred on the southbound route of the A34 shortly after 2pm today (Thursday, January 11) .

It took place between Peartree Interchange and the Botley Interchange, causing long and ongoing delays.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) stated that firefighters have had to work to free one person from a car involved and that two car occupants sustained minor injuries.

It was further confirmed that the lorry driver was not hurt.

Thames Valley Police, which was called out to the crash, confirmed that the road would be closed for several hours but there were no major injuries or fatalities.

National Highways advised motorists to avoid the area and to follow an alternative route.

Stagecoach informed passengers some services would be delayed as a result of the collision.

References

  1. ^ Clarkson's Diddly Squat Farm Shop announces temporary closure (www.oxfordmail.co.uk)

Oxford High Street bus gate restrictions are suspended

The closure of the Abingdon[1] Road due to flooding, combined with the continued closure of Botley Road at the rail bridge has prompted the county council to open the High Street to all traffic 24 hours a day.

Ordinary traffic is usually banned from using the high street between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

During that time the route can only be used by local buses, taxis/licensed private hire (not private rental) and exempt emergency vehicles.

Drivers caught in the bus lane flouting the ban during those hours are fined if they are caught by ANPR cameras.

But the county[3] council has decided to temporarily lift the restriction while the Abingdon Road remains closed due to flooding.

Oxford Mail: Flooding in Abingdon RoadThe Botley Road is also closed at the rail bridge due to an ongoing project to revamp the station.

The county council posted on X, formerly Twitter on Sunday afternoon: "A reminder that access can temporarily be gained through Oxford's High Street bus gates due to the flooding that has led to the closure of Abingdon Road in Oxford. The road won't be open in time for the Monday rush hour. We are watching water levels closely."

A county council spokesman added: "Drivers won’t be fined for travelling through the High Street bus gate during this period."

Some residents have called for the county council to also open East Oxford Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions but the council said: "There are no plans to open the East Oxford LTNs."

Conservative county councillor Liam Walker welcomed the decision to open the High Street bus gate to all traffic.

Oxford Mail: County councillor Liam WalkerHe said: "It is quite unprecedented to open this bus gate but I expect the council has come under pressure from the emergency services, with the Abingdon Road and Botley Road closed.

"Removing the LTNs in east Oxford at this time would also help but I don't think the council is committed to doing that.

"The council needs to use a bit of common sense and budge - the East Oxford LTNs should certainly be opened while the Abingdon Road remains closed."

There are plans to introduce six new bus gates - or traffic filters - across the city.

The new bus gate locations are: St Cross Road, Thames Street, Hythe Bridge Street, St Clements, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way.

The county council has agreed not to introduce them until Network Rail has concluded its £161m scheme to improve Oxford station, which has resulted in the Botley Road closure. Work is due to finish in October.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. [7]

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.

References

  1. ^ Abingdon (www.oxfordmail.co.uk)
  2. ^

Botley Road works not delayed by flooding say train bosses

Water levels have risen across Oxford[1] following rainfall from Storm Henk with Botley Road among the routes which have had surface water.

It comes as the key road into the city is closed to traffic at the rail bridge as the rail authority works on a £160m upgrade to Oxford station.

Although rail bosses initially pledged to reopen the road for four months from the end of October over the festive period, the road remained closed until all work is completed in October 2024.

But Network Rail has confirmed the wet weather has not caused a further delay to the work despite large puddles appearing under the bridge.

The company said pumps were used to drain the water collected and resume the works that included replacing the rail bridge.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “While the significant rainfall over Christmas and New Year caused water to build up on our work site at Botley Road, highlighting the challenges of managing water levels when working so close to the water table, we were able to manage this with the use of pumps to drain the water.

“With the water pumped away, work resumed as planned last week and our teams are now digging the trench that will be used to divert the utilities.

“Part of our work to replace the bridge and improve the road will be to install a new pump system to help prevent future flooding.”

thisisoxfordshire: Botley Road work

A spokesman for the county[3] council added: "Oxfordshire County Council is in regular contact with Network Rail about the progress of the project."

Botley Road has been closed since last April.

Sections of the road have been flooded over the past few days with surface water building up on two stretches of the route.

These areas are near the Holly Bush pub and St Frideswide's Church towards the rail station, then also outside McDonald's where traffic lights are located.

Network Rail bosses previously apologised after backtracking on their decision to have a break from the closure of Botley Road.

They said the project was taking longer than expected due to the discovery of a brick-built arch beneath the road.

The work is taking place as Network Rail says the existing railway bridge spanning Botley Road needs to be replaced, so that an additional railway line can be added into the station.

This would also mean that buses, cyclists and pedestrians can more easily access the city centre.

In preparation, 11 different utility services need to divert their pipes and cables under the bridge.

References

  1. ^ Oxford (www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk)
  2. ^ Flooding issues continue across Oxfordshire following Storm Henk (www.oxfordmail.co.uk)
  3. ^ county (www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk)

HMV blames ‘lack of investment in Boston’ for store closure

A major entertainment retailer blamed a "lack of investment" in a Lincolnshire town for its decision to close a store. HMV will be closing up shop in Pescod Square in Boston[1] for the second time, having reopened the store in 2018.

Staff have been notified and the closure is expected to come within days. A spokesperson for the company said: "It is with considerable regret that we have decided to close our Boston shop.

"Shifting consumer behaviours and a lack of investment in the town’s retail district has meant that it is no longer a sustainable location for us. We have been in contact with all store staff and are looking to offer them new roles elsewhere in the business where that is possible. We'd also like to thank all our customers over the years for their patronage."

Poll: What's the best sandwich shop in Lincolnshire?[2]

The store closed for the first time back in 2013. Cllr Dale Broughton, the deputy leader of Boston Borough Council[3], said he was sorry to see HMV leave but the council remained committed to "revitalising" the market town.

He said: "We are always extremely sorry to see one of our town centre shops closing, especially for those employees who are affected. As always, we will work closely with our partners at DWP to help staff find alternative employment as soon as possible. We fully appreciate what a difficult time it is currently in the retail environment nationally, and Boston is no exception, but as a council we are fully committed to revitalising Boston's town centre and helping improve its overall offer, working in partnership with businesses, residents and partners."

He added: "Our new Boston town centre strategy and action plan will be at the heart of this ambition, utilising the significant funding for the borough through the Government's Town Deal and Levelling Up funds to drive growth and regeneration, hold flagship events like the recent Christmas festival and improve footfall to help make Boston a great place to live, work or visit."

While its reasoning for departing paints a dire picture for Boston, HMV celebrated the reopening of its flagship store in London's Oxford Street back in November. The jubilant return drew strong crowds and was marked by performances by ska seven-piece Madness and indie rockers The Reytons.

The grand store closed in 2019 when the high street staple fell into administration, before it was quickly rescued by Canadian businessman and Sunrise Records owner Doug Putman. It returned to profit in 2022. HMV, or His Master's Voice, first opened its doors to customers in 1921.

It stocks a range of DVDs, CDs, vinyl records, comic books and pop culture lines. Once the Boston store closes, the only HMV in Lincolnshire will be the store in Lincoln's Cornhill Quarter.

References

  1. ^ Boston (www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ What's the best sandwich shop in Lincolnshire? (xd.wayin.com)
  3. ^ Boston Borough Council (www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk)