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Electric cars: UK government urged to prevent ‘charging deserts’ - The Guardian

The UK’s competition authority has called for the government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent “charging deserts” and increase availability in locations outside London, which remain underserved.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also said it had opened an investigation into the dominance of one provider, Electric Highway, in the fast-charging network at motorway service stations.

Electric cars are a crucial part of the UK’s plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as part of its effort to alleviate the climate crisis, and the government announced in 2020 that sales of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2030.

However, the industry has long argued that much more public investment is needed to solve a chicken and egg problem: some consumers are put off from buying an electric car because of poor charger availability but charger companies are unwilling to invest until enough consumers have bought them.

Forecasts cited by the CMA suggest the public charger network needs to expand by at least 10 times by 2030, from the current 25,000 to between 280,000 and 480,000 public charge points.

However, a study by the regulator published on Friday suggested Britons faced a “postcode lottery” for access to public chargers. Outside London there are only 1,000 on-street chargers across the whole of the UK, while within the capital there are 4,700.

The CMA said the government needed to accelerate investment in rapid-charging networks, provide more funding and support to local authorities to invest in charger networks, and make it easier and cheaper for companies to connect new chargers to the electricity grid. The government should also consider targeting extra funding off the motorway in more remote locations, the regulator said.

It also expressed serious concerns about the dominance of Electric Highway, a subsidiary of the private energy company Gridserve, in the provision of the motorway fast-charger network. Electric Highway has exclusivity agreements with Roadchef, Moto and Extra, motorway services providers who cover about two-thirds of UK motorway service stations.

“We are concerned that these arrangements increase barriers to entry for other chargepoint operators,” the CMA said, adding that they risked undermining the government’s £950m rapid charging fund, which invests in the infrastructure for chargers on busy routes.

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It is “far from clear” that exclusivity deals are still necessary, and other providers have said they are unable to compete on motorway provision, the CMA said. It said the government should insist on open competition when awarding new grants.

Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA, said: “Electric vehicles play a critical role in meeting net zero but the challenges with creating an entirely new charging network should not be underestimated. Some areas of the rollout are going well and the UK’s network is growing – but it’s clear that other parts, like charging at motorway service stations and on-street, have much bigger hurdles to overcome.

“There needs to be action now to address the postcode lottery in electric vehicle charging as we approach the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.”

Gridserve was approached for comment.

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Car chip shortage to abate, smartphones could be next: industry execs - Reuters

Employees are seen working on the final assembly of ASML's TWINSCAN NXE:3400B semiconductor lithography tool with its panels removed, in Veldhoven, Netherlands, in this picture taken April 4, 2019. Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie/ASML/Handout via REUTERS

July 23 (Reuters) - The semiconductor shortage that has gripped the world could last well into 2022 and hit smartphone production next, foreshadowing deficient supply for a range of appliances and industrial equipment, industry executives and an economist said.

The automotive sector has suffered the most this year but supply to the sector could improve relatively soon, with China taking up some production demand that Taiwan could not meet, ING Greater China chief economist Iris Pang told Reuters Global Markets Forum this week.

Taiwanese semiconductor companies have boosted production in China as blackouts and ongoing COVID-19 social distancing measures disrupted factory output and port operations in Taiwan, she said.

"China gained 5% on the chip shortage in terms of GDP - Taiwan semiconductor companies have planned well and built large factories in mainland China," Pang said, predicting that smartphone makers will be the next segment to face disruptions.

"Taiwanese semiconductor companies are tailoring making chips for autos, so the chip shortage should be solved for autos in a few weeks, but other electronics' chip shortage problem persists," Pang said, adding that could delay shipments of some new model smartphones.

Companies across industries globally have warned of an ongoing struggle to source chips. read more

ASML (ASML.AS), one of the world's biggest suppliers to semiconductor makers, hiked its sales outlook this week on strong orders as chip giants such as TSMC (2330.TW) and Intel (INTC.O) raced to boost output.

The broader supply crunch could last until the second quarter of 2022, said Adam Khan, founder of AKHAN Semiconductor, although he noted this timeline was "aspirational."

Andrew Feldman, CEO of chip startup Cerebras Systems, echoed that view, saying vendors were quoting lead times as long as 32 weeks for new chips and components.

ING's Pang said even crypto miners are seeking ways to recycle "used" chips, which implies the shortage wasn't going away.

Higher demand for chips, fuelled by one-off purchases to meet work-from-home needs and continuous demand for smartphones and other electronics, is expected to spur investment and growth in the sector.

The chips industry could grow between 21% to 25% in 2021, with "electronics having its best showing since 2010," said Dan Hutcheson, CEO of chips-focused VLSI Research.

So far this year, the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index (.SOX) has outpaced the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) with gains of over 16% versus 13%.

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(These interviews were conducted in the Reuters Global Markets Forum chat room on Refinitiv Messenger. Join GMF: https://refini.tv/33uoFoQ)

Reporting by Aaron Saldanha and Lisa Mattackal in Bengaluru; Editing by Divya Chowdhury and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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British watchdog probes EV charging operators as ban on fuel cars looms - Reuters

A sign for electric charging points can be seen on display in London, Britain, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

July 23 (Reuters) - Britain's competition regulator said on Friday it had launched a probe into some electric vehicle chargepoint operators on highways and motorways, as it laid out guidelines to ensure a robust charging network to aid the country's net zero plans.

"While some parts of this new sector are developing relatively well... the CMA has found that other parts are facing problems which will hinder roll-out. This could impact the government's ... wider commitment to make the UK net zero by 2050," the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

The CMA said it was looking into long-term arrangements between the operators Electric Highway, MOTO, Roadchef and Extra, adding that it was concerned that the arrangement was reducing competition in the EV charging market.

The regulator also said the postcode lottery system of developing electric vehicle charging needed to change, and that the government must attach conditions to its Rapid Charging Fund worth 950 million pounds ($1.31 billion) meant for upgrading the network.

The move by CMA comes ahead of a ban in UK on sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.

The regulator said more than ten times the available chargepoints will be needed by 2030. The UK currently has around 25,000 chargepoints.

($1 = 0.7270 pounds)

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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British watchdog probes EV charging operators as ban on fuel cars looms - Reuters UK

A sign for electric charging points can be seen on display in London, Britain, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

July 23 (Reuters) - Britain's competition regulator said on Friday it had launched a probe into some electric vehicle chargepoint operators on highways and motorways, as it laid out guidelines to ensure a robust charging network to aid the country's net zero plans.

"While some parts of this new sector are developing relatively well... the CMA has found that other parts are facing problems which will hinder roll-out. This could impact the government's ... wider commitment to make the UK net zero by 2050," the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

The CMA said it was looking into long-term arrangements between the operators Electric Highway, MOTO, Roadchef and Extra, adding that it was concerned that the arrangement was reducing competition in the EV charging market.

The regulator also said the postcode lottery system of developing electric vehicle charging needed to change, and that the government must attach conditions to its Rapid Charging Fund worth 950 million pounds ($1.31 billion) meant for upgrading the network.

The move by CMA comes ahead of a ban in UK on sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.

The regulator said more than ten times the available chargepoints will be needed by 2030. The UK currently has around 25,000 chargepoints.

($1 = 0.7270 pounds)

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Eyeing IPO, Geely's Volvo Cars swings to profit in H1 - Reuters

STOCKHOLM, July 23 (Reuters) - Volvo Cars said on Friday it returned to profit for the January-June period, lifted by a strong market recovery from the last year's pandemic plunge as the Geely-owned automaker gears up for a potential IPO later this year.

The company, owned by China's Geely Holding (GEELY.UL), has been boosted by growing demand for electric cars, but several automakers have been forced to cut production lately due to global shortages of semiconductors.

The Swedish carmaker reported operating earnings of 13.24 billion crowns ($1.5 billion) versus a loss of 989 million a year earlier, when results were heavily affected by the initial outbreak of the pandemic.

First-half profits also beat Volvo Cars' profit of 5.52 billion crowns in the corresponding period of 2019, before the novel coronavirus struck.

"All our regions reported solid growth with improved market shares and our sales mix strengthened, with an increasing share for our SUV models," Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement, adding the firm was keeping its second-half outlook for flat sales and revenue growth year-on-year.

The company, which is considering carrying out an initial public offering (IPO) before the end of this year, said earlier this month that first-half sales rose 41% to 380,757 cars.

($1 = 8.6821 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Helena Soderpalm; editing by Niklas Pollard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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