Boris’s dream of making London as quiet and clean as a convent during vespers drew a step closer recently.
With the disclosure that London now has 17,000 electric and electric hybrid vehicles registered in the capital it makes London the country’s leader with some 23.5 per cent of the nation’s total.
The experts predict that by 2020 over a half million of these vehicles will be registered.
[I]t hardly is surprising with a 100 per cent discount on the congestion charge and nil-rate vehicle excise duty and that their use in London can only go northwards.
OK! I’ll put up my hands; I drive one of London’s worst polluters, even with expensive conversions and the phasing out of 15-year-old vehicles, London’s taxis still pollute far more than any electric vehicle ever would, and as someone with mild COPD I have more than a passing interest in improving London’s air quality.
Whilst London’s air might seem one of the best amongst capital cities around the world, the technocrats in Brussels have deemed that it’s not doing enough to meet EU-wide standards. As a city without any polluting industries or manufacturing, the vast majority, some 80 per cent, of London’s air pollution comes from road transport (with presumably the other 20 per cent from City Hall). Of this 80 per cent, it is estimated that emissions from London’s iconic black cabs make up 20 per cent, and this is the group that Boris is targeting in his Air Quality Strategy to help him meet strict emission targets.
To go down the electric taxi route taxi drivers (and Boris) have to overcome a number of problems, which you could call the four “Pees” no make that five Pees.
Price – Unlike London’s bus fleet we don’t receive any subsidies, being self employed, we naturally don’t enjoy the generous benefits bestowed on other fleet operators. Current estimates for the price of an electric taxi are in the region of £60,000.
Plugs – In May of this year Boris switched on the Capital’s new Electric Vehicle Scheme, making it simpler for electric vehicle owners to charge their vehicles, and he is promising a total of at least 1,300 charging points by 2013. This is designed to overcome the major problem for any electric vehicle driver which is “range anxiety”, the term used by drivers of these vehicles when they need a charge. In the lead for long distance running without needing a charge is the Smart fortwo, with a potential range of 84 miles – far shorter than the average cab is driven in a day.
Parking – No Londoner needs reminding of the parking restrictions and its draconian enforcement by local authorities. If London’s 24,000 cabs have to stop half way through their working day to recharge provision must be made away from the parking restrictions imposed by London’s Stalinist councils. You wouldn’t expect buses in a bus garage to incur parking enforcement, so why cabs?
Passengers – These have of late become an endangered species, making the cost of electric vehicles even more uneconomic for cabbies. But should paying customers return one day they might find that because of an electric vehicle’s limited range journeys cannot be undertaken, and as they say refusal can sometimes offend.
Spending a Penny – An additional requirement now sadly lacking in London is the provision of toilets, and while parked and recharging your own and the vehicle’s batteries, proper provision should be given for eating and as the American’s call it a comfort break.
A start Boris, but a lot more work is to be done before you reach your clean air El Dorado.