Electric buses and taxis in London

MQT on 2015-07-15
Session date: 
July 15, 2015
Question By: 
Stephen Knight
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How many electric buses and taxis are currently operating on London's roads?


Answer for Electric buses and taxis in London

Answer for Electric buses and taxis in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thank you very much, Stephen.  I can announce today that we are stepping up our electric bus fleet by introducing a further 51 all-electric vehicles in the London fleet from the autumn of next year on routes 507 and 521.  That means that there will be over 70 zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles in the capital in just over one year’s time.  There are currently ten vehicles in the fleet; that will grow to 17 in September and 22 in October, when the first double-deck electric bus in the world arrives on our streets.  By 2020 all 300 single-decker buses operating in central London will be zero‑emission, either electric or hydrogen, and all 3,000 double-deck buses in central London will be hybrid.

On taxis, although the numbers of electric taxis are currently low, as you know, by January 2018 all new taxis will have to be zero-emission-capable and we expect to have 9,000 of these on London streets by 2020 thanks to a fund of £65 million that we are putting in to encourage the take-up of zero-emission-capable vehicles. 

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor, and I am encouraged by the growth that you project in the future, particularly of the single-decker electric buses.  We have been a bit slow in taking up electric buses until now because we have been outdone by several other British cities, leaving alone elsewhere in the world, which have more electric buses currently operating than we do at the moment.  York, Nottingham and Milton Keynes all have more electric buses currently operating than London.  Have we not been a bit slow on the uptake of fully electric buses? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  One of the crucial points that you need to bear in mind is that of the 8,000-odd buses that we have, three-quarters are double-deckers and they are the workhorses of the fleet.  It is only now that we have an electric double-decker going.  As you know, we have ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  We still have a fleet of over 2,500 single-deckers, do we not? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes, we do and some of those, as I have said, are going electric.  You will appreciate that one of the most important things about serving the London population is that your bus should be reliable, it should have stamina, it should turn up on time and it should not conk out and we are very reluctant to commission vehicles that are not going to do the job.  They have to work continuously for 18 hours or more without refuelling; that is a lot to ask of a vehicle.  I remember vividly going out with David Brown, the then head of Surface Transport [at TfL], on one of our first hybrid buses and the poor thing conked out at Westminster Bridge, as I seem to remember.  You do not want to have vehicles that are unreliable but we are moving in that direction. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I appreciate that, Mr Mayor.  I want to move on to the double-decker trial that you have announced starting in October.  Mr Mayor, I noticed that you launched this trial standing in front of a diesel bus, not an electric one. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Actually, no, it was a hybrid.  It was a New Bus for London. 

Stephen Knight AM:  It was a diesel-powered hybrid; you are quite right, Mr Mayor.  Given that so far we have not seen any evidence that there is even a prototype of this Chinese bus in operation anywhere, how confident are you that that trial will be able to take place in October? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You are asking a very reasonable question.  I am slightly incredulous myself but I am told that it is going to be there.  I am told that in October - and Leon [Leon Daniels, Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL] absolutely assures me - that we are going to see a double-decker electric bus.  It sounds extraordinary to me but October is not long to wait; we will have to see. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I hope you are right, Mr Mayor.  We look forward to seeing it and hopefully will be buying large numbers of them.  Are you aware, Mr Mayor, that actually ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Hang on, before we commit to buying large numbers of them ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  We need to know they work; I appreciate that.  Mr Mayor, are you aware that there is currently already an electric double-decker bus operating in York with plans for five more of them and it has been operating for almost a year?  Are you aware of that? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am not aware of that and you bring me news because I am told that this is a world first. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I am afraid you have been beaten to it by another British city. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am shocked by what you tell me, Stephen. 

Stephen Knight AM:  York has had one operating since September last year, Mr Mayor. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am shocked and disappointed and I will make enquiries but, if that is the case, then bully for York and I hope it is a British-made bus. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I believe it is, Mr Mayor.  It is a converted existing bus. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is a conversion of an existing bus.  The question will be, whatever double-decker electric bus there is, whether it can take the punishment of London’s roads 18 hours a day and provide a truly reliable service.  That is what we want to have. 

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you.