Electric vehicles in London

MQT on 2015-09-16
Session date: 
September 16, 2015
Question By: 
Stephen Knight
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What changes will you be making to your existing strategies to increase the use of electric buses, taxis and other vehicles in London?


Answer for Electric vehicles in London

Answer for Electric vehicles in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Stephen.  The strategies we have in place are actually extremely exciting and are, at last, starting to deliver some progress on electric vehicles in London.

From 2018, as you know, all new licensed taxis will have to be zero-emission-capable and that will deliver 9,000 zero-emission taxis by 2020.  We have £65 million to help the taxi trade transition to that.  By 2020, all 3,000 double-decker buses in central London will be hybrid-electric and all 300 single-deckers will be zero-emission.  We are already trialling all-electric buses, as you know, on four routes and - something that people thought was technically impossible - the electric double-decker is arriving.  It is currently at sea but it is arriving very shortly in London and it will run on route 16 from Cricklewood to Victoria Station.  We are also, of course, expanding the rapid-charging hubs to support the needs of taxis, private-hire vehicles, commercial fleets and so on.

As a result of these measures, we already have 8,000 privately owned electric vehicles in London, 45,000 petrol-electric hybrid cars, 750 diesel-electric hybrid cars and one of the largest electric networks in the whole of Europe.  Therefore, we are making progress; although clearly there is a lot further to go.

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Clearly, the progress that we are making has not been enough so far and the plans that exist so far have not been enough to meet our legal obligations, particularly around nitrogen dioxide.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  On air quality.

Stephen Knight AM:  In the light of the Government’s recent publication of its draft plan to reduce nitrogen dioxide - which itself has been published as a reaction to the Government being ordered to do so by the courts - incidentally published on Saturday, within minutes of the Labour leadership announcement ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  That was not my decision, Stephen.  It was nothing to do with me.

Stephen Knight AM:  I am not sure if that is something that you would deem appropriate by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), to publish its plan using that timing.

Clearly, we have to go a lot further, have we not?  On top of what you have already said, in response to this draft plan, how much further are you going to go?  Clearly, London is not as far advanced as other cities in the United Kingdom (UK) like Nottingham, which has had a fleet of electric buses since 2012.  We are a long way behind.  How much more are you going to do as a result of Saturday’s announcement?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You will recall, of course, with the long memory that you have, that the first electric bus was actually introduced on the streets of London in 1904.  Therefore, we are really returning to technology that ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Are you bringing trolley buses back?  Is that what you are telling me?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  No, it was not a trolley bus, popular though that might be.  It was not a trolley bus.  It was a pure electric bus that ran on a battery.  The technology, obviously, has developed very fast and we can now do things such as double-decker electric buses, which were not possible before.

Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, how many of these new Chinese electric buses are you planning to buy?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We are going to trial it and then we will take a decision.  We are certainly not making a ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Once you have trialled the one prototype that is arriving, presumably you have plans to roll it out to a number of routes across London.  How many are you planning to buy?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  If I may say so, I do not know whether you are working for this Chinese company but you are slightly jumping the gun there!  We are going to see how good it is and, depending on its performance in the trials, we will take a decision.

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you.  Mr Mayor, TfL has been trialling hydrogen fuel cell electric buses in London for some years now.  What plans do you have to expand the use of hydrogen fuel cell buses in the light of the trials?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  None at the moment that I am aware of ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  None at all?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ mainly because of the cost of the individual hydrogen buses.  Kit [Kit Malthouse AM MP], the distinguished former Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership, may correct me on this but to the best of my knowledge each individual RV1 bus costs about £1 million and although they ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Yes, they are expensive.  Mr Mayor, clearly, it is going to be a long time before we see electric buses replacing all diesel buses across London.  Can I ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I have given you a feeling for the timetable and ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  I am aware of the timetable that you have at the moment, but clearly we are a long way from replacing the 8,000 diesel buses that we have running around London’s roads with purely electric ones.

Can I ask you this?  What assessment has TfL made of the possibility in the short to medium term of converting diesel buses to run on compressed natural gas, a much cleaner fuel than diesel, in order to rid our streets of diesel buses as soon as we possibly can?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  What is happening on buses is that they are all going to be ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  No, I asked specifically about converting to natural gas.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am not aware, particularly.

Stephen Knight AM:  None at all?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The plan is to go for Euro 6 standards or better ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Will you ask TfL to look at this option?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  They have.  Believe me, they have and ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  You just said that no consideration has been given to it.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I do not believe that there are plans to go forward with the conversion of our current fleet of buses to liquid gas or natural gas ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Please could you write to me with a copy of what assessments have been done?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ because we think that we can achieve the air quality benefits in other ways.  I have spelled out some of them.  When you get the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in ‑‑

Stephen Knight AM:  Could you ask TfL, please?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ you will have much cleaner buses running in the centre of London.

Stephen Knight AM:  Mr Mayor, the current plans seem to leave our streets dominated by diesel buses for many years to come.  You have said that TfL has looked at gas bus conversions and has dismissed it.  Please could you publish or ask TfL to publish its assessment of doing that?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I would be very happy, Stephen, to do that.

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you.  That is me finished, Chairman.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We think we can achieve the air quality benefits in other ways and we are.  You will appreciate that there are very considerable reductions in nitrogen dioxide, in particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10s) and in particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5s) that have already been achieved in the last seven or eight years.

Stephen Knight AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.