The London Move to Electric Cars is Serious Business

The London Move to Electric Cars is Serious Business

by | published August 14th, 2019

Anybody who travels to European cities on a regular basis can tell you about the plans afoot to clean up urban air.

Several of these cities, Frankfurt for example, have restricted or outrightly banned diesel vehicles. Others, like Paris, are limiting access for motor bikes during certain parts of the week. And many have frequent readings of air quality, changing traffic patterns and access routes accordingly.

Much of this is the result of all European nations signing on to the Paris Climate Agreement. But by any measure, there is overwhelming public support for the changes.

It has even led to some initiatives taking hold in which people are encouraged to leave the car at home and take public transport or trains. It probably helps that in Europe, unlike the U.S., intercity rail transport actually works.

Norway is the leading electric car nation in the world, with Oslo the number one city for such vehicles. Meanwhile, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Dublin, and even Madrid have begun, or are well into, confronting the problems of central city air quality.

Well, one these days we’ll need to add London to the growing list.

New Prime Minister Means New Changes

New UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come out in favor of a major reversal in carbon emissions with particular emphasis on the capital city.

Of course, given that he is also likely to be overseeing a UK crash out of the European Union (a hard Brexit) at the end of October, jolly ol’ Boris may have other matters to worry about.

Well, a while back, I attended a meeting in the House of Lords at Westminster. The occasion was a frank and open discussion about lowering the emissions in central London. At that time, I was struck by the range of city and administrative groups supporting rather drastic changes in how traffic gets around in London, especially in the often heavily congested central part of town.

Progress has been made since then.

In April, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced to deter drivers from entering certain congested areas of the city (read about it here). This involves a £12.50 daily charge operating 24/7 and will expand by 2021 to the main A406 rout circling the city proper.

There has also been a major increase in hybrid buses within the city and an increasing number of traditional London black cabs taking up the LEVC TX variant. This is the London Electric Vehicle Company’s electric version of the classic black cab.

But what has also been gaining traction, even amongst those who have opposed in the past, is a rapid switch to electric vehicles.

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The New Plan to Switch to Zero-Emissions

Take the high-visibility Sunday Times.

On Sunday, the newspaper noted that the advent of electric cars replacing internal combustion engines in London center would be a very positive development.

But an article entitled “An inconvenient truth about electric cars” laid out one of the main problems: there are few charging stations in the city.

The problem is certainly understood. At our House of Lords meeting, it was a topic of specific discussion. At the time, representatives of the London local government and its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Task Force (EVITF) created by the mayor committed to dealing with it.

The result was unveiled a few weeks ago.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and EVITF announced a detailed plan to move the city to zero-emissions transport as fast as possible.

According to that plan, the government intends to provide at least 50,000 electric vehicle charge points by 2025 (the full executive summary of the report can be accessed right here).

Screenshot of charging stations in London from Plugshare

According to Khan, air quality is now the worst in the city’s history. The mayor also seems to have a personal stake in all of this; he apparently developed asthma as an adult and the city’s air pollution has contributed to it significantly.

The House of Lords Will Convene on this Change

As early as next year, the City of London will install 300-400 fast charge points, and by 2025 the number of rapid chargers is aimed to increase to 2,300 to 4,100. Another mix of slow-to-fast EV charging points are aimed to grow from 3,400-4,700 in 2020 to 33,700-47,500 by the year 2025.

Khan said: “If we aspire to truly transform the quality of our air – and preside over a steep and meaningful reduction in our carbon emissions – we must move away from petrol and diesel cars, and towards electric and hydrogen vehicles. Bringing about this sea change won’t be easy, but with the right political will and ambition, I’m confident we can pull it off.

“I’m proud that London is one of the first major cities in the world to publish a detailed and independently-assessed climate action plan that outlines how we will comply with the Paris Agreement. A big part of this plan is aiming for all new cars and vans on our roads to be zero emission from 2030.”

“We need to reject the fossil fuels of the past and embrace an electric revolution in London’s transport. To truly transform the quality of our air and to tackle the climate crisis London must move away from petrol and diesel cars, with their catastrophic impact on the environment, and towards zero-emission vehicles.”

Details of the plan’s roll out is contained in a statement from Khan available on the City of London’s website (click here to read it)

Another follow-up meeting, once again at the House of Lords, is being scheduled. I’ll let you know what transpires, how London is faring in all of this, and how likely the targets set out by the mayor are to be met.

This may become very interesting. And not just for London.



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