History will be the final judge

In Newsletter Editorial7 MinutesBy Dave McCoidNovember 10, 2023

It’s been a fascinating couple of weeks. Once again, I’m in the privileged position of being able to observe our industry here and in other regions of the globe and note the progress – or otherwise – towards dates and deadlines for climate-driven mandates and obligations.

The more I look, the more I firmly believe that history will not judge the OEMs or their customers for lack of commitment. Nor will they be criticised for being fundamentally uninvested or under-investing, in what was required.

From where I stand, I believe the politicians, regulators and bureaucrats will eventually feel the heat of failure, as will we all.

Business, as a rule, is a time-poor endeavour. Innovators and entrepreneurs get things done ‘in spite of’. When it comes to road transport, politicians and bureaucracy appear more and more to be the yin to the innovation yang. For all their foreboding prophecies about the planet’s dire situation, the politicians, bureaucrats, and regulators don’t appear to have the required urgency on their side of the fence. They need to focus on what must be done to achieve the required outcomes and create a ‘playing field’ on which clever people can ‘play’.

Take Europe first. Those who read my post-Hannover show pieces last year will recall the concern expressed by Daimler’s Dr Andreas Gorbach at the potential of severe shortcomings in charging infrastructure in the years ahead. It is a collective concern held by all the major OEMs there, such that Daimler, TRATON, and Volvo are part of the Milence joint venture investing €500 million in 1700 charging locations around Europe. Their contribution is, however, a drop in the ocean. With MAN alone predicting a third of heavy truck sales to be BEV by 2030, the collective estimate of required charging infrastructure by the end of 2030 is 50,000 locations.

Let’s put that into perspective. To achieve it, 137 charging points need to be stood up every single week between 1 January 2024 and the end of 2030 – 19.5 every day. Not started. Not consented, not ‘under construction’ … complete! Is there any sense of apparent collective urgency or even understanding on the part of those with a vice-like grip on the rule book? The fact OEMs are being asked to divert already exhausted R&D budgets away from alternative propulsion in favour of a complex Euro-7 mandate would point to the logical answer. At this moment in history, one would have thought Euro-6 was fine and the resources required to advance that bureaucracy better directed elsewhere.

But Europe is a multi-government region and complex by nature. We, on the other hand, have a single administration and can be nimble and quick to react. We’re innovative, with new ideas quickly tested and easily deployed. We can, in fact, show the world the way forward (cue Tui ad).

“The consenting process takes a long time, and the gear can be months on order – six or more,” was the answer I received recently from a representative of a local networks company subsidiary when asked about the lack of charging points at a new high-profile installation.

Yes, you’re correct that the network companies are not political, or regulators, but the question is why that was his answer. Why wasn’t it, ‘Yeah, there are incentives for tech companies to make charges and grants for industry to move into that space. If we want 30 pedestals, there’s about a two-week wait. And as for consent that’s been fast-tracked.’ Honestly, he looked mildly demoralised.

We have 40 lots of six months before 2050. Again, if it’s such a pivotal date in history, I would have expected a little more genuine urgency on the part of the rulemakers.

And, of course, let’s not forget things a little closer to home. Road infrastructure aside, this week we had the cataclysmic revelation that carting even a small over-width load on an HPMV is naughty and not allowed. As a result, a consultative process and field testing are underway to see if a 10cm over-width load on a 10m trailer has the same impact as global temperatures rising a net average of 2°. The potential must be there. I mean, those who tsk-tsk and wag their imperious fingers hit top gear overnight on this baby!

‘Make a quick amendment to the rule, circulate a memo, and get on with attempting to understand a flotilla of new trucks coming our way we know nothing about, or how they will impact compliance and infrastructure….’

‘Prime Minister, with all due respect…’

What, then, is the solution? Maybe a little more urgency in the form of getting key people from the private sector with track records on making shit happen and injecting them into the bureaucracy with mandates that align to where we need to be in 40 six-month rotations (7300 days) from now.

You never know – we might just end up leading the world in ‘how to’. Something a bit out of the box has to happen. That’s for sure.

All the best,

Dave McCoid
Editorial Director