British EV market means business at LCV Conference 2016.


The LCV Conference 2016 was a very British affair. In its ninth year, it is where carmakers display their working models for attendants to test, where exhibitors show infrastructure solutions, policy concepts and technologies, and where key figures give speeches or lead workshops. Hence, it is a good start to assess where the Isles are at and where they might be headed when it comes to electric transport, with or without the European Union. For, Nora Manthey visited the LCV Conference 2016 and came back with insights and impressions of the British EV market, its driving forces, and concerns.

The British Government has pledged to spend 600m GBP to assure every new car sold in the UK by 2040 will be a ZEV. By 2050, all cars are to be electric. In terms of charging infrastructure, the official strategy paper from 2011 wants “to see the majority of recharging taking place at home, at night,” and to top up domestic solutions with workplace charging and “a targeted amount of public infrastructure.”

The UK’s policy approach still stands despite the looming Brexit. The overall EV strategy was summarised as “ambitious but realistic” by Richard Bruce, former head of the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and now Director for Energy, Technology and Innovation at the Department for Transport (DfT). With regards to the EU emission regulations for 2020, Bruce admitted that “what has possibly changed is our ability to influence that path.”


A way that is open and easier to change lies on the regional and local level. “We will see cities moving ahead in terms of emission regulation being put in place,” as their citizens become more concerned with air quality, argued Bruce. His words highlighted another development.

Is the EV and infrastructure market left to regulate itself?

The UK under the governing conservative party is a firm believer in the forces of market regulation and the drive of competition. The rush for market shares was reflected in the line-up at this year’s LCV Conference.

There were numerous small British infrastructure firms, or installers and service providers at LCV 2016. They face ChargeMaster, who reportedly bought Charge Your Car to merge their customer support and maintenance efforts. Together, the two networks control about 2/3 of the market.

A development one European found particularly worrying, TNM’s UK Country manager Sander van der Veen. The one advantage of the merger he could see was that this “might drive the rest of the market together and fuel a roaming initiative.” It is the latter TNM is particularly interested in.

Nissan smart charging vision.
Nissan smart charging vision.

Yet, few of the other exhibitors saw roaming as a problem or a need for standardisation. Instead, their hopes lay on commercialisation like Ecotricity recently introduced on its Electric Highway. The idea is that once EV drivers get used to pay for charging, providers will have a financial interest to make their stations accessible to all.

Is the UK headed for “island solutions” in infrastructure?

Some at the LCV Conference 2016 still saw a danger of “island solutions” for the Isles. Among them is Nick Storer, business developer at EA Technology, who likened the current state of the UK market to the “Wild West” with regards to smart charging solutions.

The company has thus raised their game from the local to the national level. The ‘My Electric Avenue’ project’s successor Electric Nation launched at the conference and looks at smart charging. Storer thus suggested that “standards may be most likely driven by utilities or grid operators” and pointed to a consultation on future strategy within the coming months.

While Rosalind Marshall, Senior Policy Advisor for infrastructure at the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, would not go on record – government policy – the office’s general draft is that the market regulates itself, while OLEV works from a guiding and funding position. It requires solutions to offer PAYG and multi-standard charging.


Multi-standard is key in the UK, alone due to Nissan and also Toyota being strongholds on the Isles. This is true for Ireland too, where an infrastructure effort by state-owned utility ESB is underway. ESB Charging Systems Engineer Joe Mooney claimed the CCS standard had arrived. But he was sure that “ChaDeMo will continue to be around for a long time,” esp. as the Nissan Leaf is the most sold EV in the Republic.

British Government’s e-mobility incentives show effects

Despite neoliberal inclinations, the LCV Conference showed that government incentives are at work, on the regional and local level in particular. ChargeMaster but also smaller firms like Rexel, or eVolt reported their biggest demand comes from the public sector, namely councils or NHS offices.

Morgan-EV-3-at-Millbrook-Testing-GroundsThe development was also reflected in exhibitors like Milton Keynes Council, Nottingham City Council, and the cities of Bath and Bristol. They all are part of OLEV’s ‘Go Ultra Low City Scheme’ and have been rewarded a total of 35m GBP. A further 5m pounds was granted to Dundee, York, Oxford and the North East for infrastructure projects.

An example for sustainable funding of innovation is Riversimple’s Rasa FCV. The company set up shop in Wales after the Welsh government supported the project. Road-testing of 20 prototypes is due to begin and Elaine Choules, Strategic Engagement Manager for Wales, welcomed the prospect of “fact-based policies.”

Testing opportunity for market-ready electric cars

Apart from seminars, LCV offers test rides. Located at Millbrook Proving Ground, the course for vehicle trials is vast and varied as it includes hill routes, city circuits, and a high speed circuit.

As the number of available electric and hybrid vehicles has grown in the UK, so has the number of exhibitors. They included BYD and Tata Motors, although the latter does not yet offer any EV in the UK.
Size and positioning of the booths reflected the carmakers’ commitment to electrification. While BMW set up its own structure with easy access from the exhibition halls, so did Nissan. Both made multiple models available. VW stood outside the circle with one eGolf and one Passat GTE. The e-Up! is scheduled to arrive on English shores next month.


Test rides were in high demand, particularly with luxurious models. Both the Model S or X were fully booked for the day each morning. The BMW i8 were gone from 8:30am – before the conference had even started. Yet, also the Nissan Leaf, or Toyota Mirai registered a constant interest.

The UK market certainly has become busier. There are more vehicles of more kinds, numerous infrastructure solutions, and more visitors. The total number of attendants has grown by 25 percent compared to last year’s show.

Copy and pictures: Nora Manthey



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