Ultra-low emission vehicles will be an essential component of our future cities, which will see streets turned into greener environments, and London has set out a vision to lead the way.
The 2017 LowCVP Conference was held at City Hall on Tuesday 27 June and came hot on the heels of the publication of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Although this draft document for public consultation was focused on London, everyone involved in the automotive industry should take note of the contents, because the vision will have far-reaching consequences for vehicles operating in cities throughout the UK and around the world.
The conference featured a wide range of speakers and topics; the headline act was London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment & Energy.
Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment & Energy, London
“Business as usual is not an option” was one of the opening phrases from Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment & Energy, London. Shirley went on to acknowledge that London currently has levels of pollution far in excess of legal limits, and poor air quality contributes to the premature deaths of 9,000 Londoners each year. Diesel vehicles are responsible for 90% of NOx emissions – as well as producing particulate emissions – so it will come as no surprise that diesels are being targeted. From October the ‘T-Charge’ will be introduced in central London which will result in a £10 charge for the dirtiest pre-2006 vehicles. The latest diesel vehicles – which comply with the Euro VI emissions standard – are viewed as having sufficiently improved emissions to enter the Government’s proposed Clean Air Zones, as their NOx emissions are 90% lower than those of Euro V diesels.
The Mayor’s Transport Strategy aims for a mode shift, with 80% of all trips in London by 2041 to be made by walking, cycling or public transport – currently these modes represent 64% of trips. By 2050 the goal is for all road transport in London to be zero emission.
To encourage progress, there will be zero emission zones in central London by 2025, in inner London by 2040, and London-wide by 2050. Buses and taxis will also have to play their part. TfL is already making good progress with electric buses, and this will be the last year that diesel taxis will be given a licence in London – they will subsequently have to become ‘zero emission capable’. A programme of rapid electric charge point installations will accompany the move to plug-in taxis. Private hire vehicles will have to follow the lead of black cabs from 2020.
The Mayor’s Transport Strategy – claimed to be the most ambitious of any world city – aims for London to reclaim global leadership in the area of climate change and air quality – and judging by the generally positive feedback to the plans, the capital is heading in the right direction to achieve this goal.
James Thornton, Chief Executive, Client Earth
Client Earth is a firm of international environmental lawyers, which is set up as a charity. James Thornton explained how poor air quality in the UK is responsible for 40,000 deaths per year, as well as being linked to premature births, under-developed lungs in babies, cancer, heart attacks, breathing conditions including asthma, diabetes, depression and dementia. Children inside cars in cities are now thought to be subject to worse levels of air pollution – in the form of nitrogen dioxide and diesel particulates – than if they were walking on the pavement. Londoners – and residents of other cities around the UK – are breathing ‘unlawful air’.
James claimed that the government “could be taking care of this issue – but isn’t.” After writing to the UK government about air quality in 2010, the response was that “there was no intention of complying with air quality targets until 2025” – ie. 15 years away. Client Earth therefore went to court, ending up in the Supreme Court. The government was ordered to come up with a plan as soon as possible, which it did, but the plan – and subsequent plans – were all described by James as ‘defective’ – including the Air Quality Strategy consultation document that was published in April this year.
Client Earth is back in court with the government on 5th July 2017. James proposed that Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is faced with a defining opportunity: to come up with a plan that protects people’s health, or to be in contempt of court and end up in jail. Economic reasons aren’t a valid justification for not delivering an air quality strategy, as the law prohibits this. Also, the current plan would save £555 million over 10 years. However air pollution costs £27.5 billion each year. The point was made that there not many opportunities for the Chancellor to save this amount of money – so this issue will also be a defining moment for the Chancellor.
James concluded by suggesting that Brexit could be used as a force for good by bringing in laws to make the UK a genuine leader in clean vehicle technology. Investors and consumers are waiting for clear policy signals – will the headlines about electric vehicles in the Queen’s Speech actually translate to forward thinking policies that will improve our health and benefit the economy?
Dan Byles, Vice President – Head of Corporate Development, Living PlanIT
Ex-MP Dan Byles talked about the huge growth in people living in cities around the world. More than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities today, but this could rise to 75% by 2050. For cities to survive and thrive sustainably, smarter solutions are required. Dan quoted that the population of London is growing at a rate of one full tube train every three days – and that level of growth makes planning ahead difficult.
Currently, government departments deal with issues in ‘silos’ and data isn’t shared – there’s no ‘inter-operability’. Air quality is an example of this – costs to the NHS aren’t linked to air pollution. This makes it impossible to think in a joined-up way. So transport shouldn’t be considered in isolation – data needs to cut across systems.
It was proposed that vehicles can be part of the solution for our cities. Cars are becoming more connected, and can act as roaming sensor platforms, collecting data to optimise journeys, as the built environment in cities is currently poorly served by technology. There’s an opportunity to apply smart, disruptive technology to buildings and cities to achieve inter-operability between vehicles and buildings, to help develop a predictive transport infrastructure. As an example, taxis could be fed data about passenger movements through airports, meaning they could avoid sitting at taxi ranks with engines running, and turn up when data tells them to. The automotive sector needs to be adopting such disruptive innovative smart technology; to do this, collaboration is the way forward.
Christophe Arnaud, Managing Director, Bolloré BlueSolutions UK
Population growth has many implications, one of them being that moving around big cities is getting more difficult, and more cars means more pollution. Bolloré BlueSolutions UK sees EV car sharing as a key solution. This model has been trialled successfully in Paris, which is now the world leader in car sharing, with 60 million electric miles being achieved last year. The service, using 4,000 EVs, is believed to have reduced the number of cars in Paris by 40,000.
Now the same business model is coming to London under the name of Blue City. The company is in the final stages of setting up infrastructure, with 100 cars due to be on the fleet by the end of 2017. People can book cars using an app for blocks of 40 minutes.
Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, Greener Journeys
Claire Haigh explained how buses in the UK are becoming greener. Population growth – potentially with three-quarters of the world’s population living in cities by 2050 – means that mass transit systems are essential, and buses can help tackle the issues of air quality and climate change.
Claire referred to the actions of the London Mayor in producing the Transport Strategy, which has been widely acclaimed as a much-needed demonstration of green leadership – which was in stark contrast with the actions of Donald Trump in withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which has been widely condemned.
On the subject of diesel and emissions, Claire explained that Euro VI diesel buses are much cleaner than Euro V buses: a Euro VI bus emits 95% less NOx than a Euro V bus. However she also made the point that NOx emissions from diesel vehicles can increase by a factor of four in slow traffic, so all efforts should be made to reduce congestion (which is also a cost to business) – and buses are a solution to this problem.
Greener Journeys has worked with the LowCVP to produce three reports about the development of greener buses in the UK – you can view these reports here.
Andrew Benfield, Group Director of Transport, Energy Saving Trust
Andrew Benfield typically spends his time promoting electric vehicles to audiences such as fleets, however his presentation focused on some challenges to EV uptake.
A survey conducted with Uber showed that although the reaction to electric vehicles themselves had lots of positives, charging was the biggest issue standing in the way of wider EV adoption. Charging an EV should be made easier, but the question was raised about whether the solution should involve lots of public rapid chargers being installed, and if so, where; or if it should just be accepted that most charging is done at home.
Vicky Edmonds, Department for Transport
Vicky explained that a role of central Government in the area of transport is to let people know what direction policy is moving in, so investments can be made. Government is also helping to kick-start the adoption of new technologies such as EVs. The long-term plan, by 2050, is that virtually all vehicles will be zero emission, and the pathway to this goal for cars, vans and buses is clear. What isn’t as clear is the path for freight.
A question from the audience asked why there were lots of visionary ideas at today’s conference, but why such ideas didn’t appear in the Government’s Air Quality Strategy. Vicky’s response was that the document is just a draft for consultation and is currently being analysed.
Nina Skero, Managing Economist, Centre for Economics and Business Research
Nina Skero gave a presentation about the urban mobility index, which looked at 35 major cities in terms of sustainable urban mobility, which were scored on a scale from 0-100. The top three cities were all in Europe, with Oslo at number one, London at two, and Amsterdam at three. A speaker was also on hand from Oslo to explain the city’s winning formula.
Trude Rauken, Senior Adviser, Office for Climate and Energy, Department of Environment and Transport, The City of Oslo
Oslo has made itself into the EV capital. It has done this by making EVs cheap to buy, with no VAT, and no registration fee – against a background where, traditionally, cars are heavily taxed. EVs are also cheap to use, with free parking, free electricity, and free passage on ferries. The result has been a huge growth in the EV market, with one in three new cars being battery electric vehicles.
Natasha Robinson, Head of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles
Natasha Robinson chaired a panel of representatives from three Go Ultra Low cities:
• Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation, Milton Keynes Council
• Chris Carter, Transport Strategy Manager, Nottingham City Council
• Gary McRae, Corporate Fleet Manager, Dundee City Council
Brian Matthews talked about the range of initiatives that Go Ultra Low Milton Keynes was implementing to encourage the take up of ultra-low emission vehicles, which included a focus on more charging infrastructure – including a ‘petrol station’ charging model, allowing EVs to use bus lanes, free parking for EVs, and the EV Experience Centre, which will showcase a range of EVs from different manufacturers under one roof.
Chris Carter explained how Nottingham was developing a charging infrastructure, as well as an ‘eco expressway’ that ultra-low emission vehicles could use.
Dundee has been focusing on making a start with the transition to ULEVs with its own fleet, as well as developing charging hubs – ‘petrol stations of the future’.
There was discussion around what a ULEV actually is, and the outcome was that there are a number of definitions of this (the Government defines a ULEV as a vehicle with emissions below 75g/km CO2), which doesn’t help drivers around the UK to be clear about whether they actually have a ULEV that is recognised by different initiatives ranging from Clean Air Zones to bus lane access.
Brian Matthews made the point that, in Oslo, EVs have a different number plate so they are easy to recognise when using, for example, bus lanes.
There was also the suggestion that the Government should lead in the area of legislation nationally with taxis – and private hire vehicles – to encourage them to make the shift to ULEVs.
Andy Eastlake, Managing Director, LowCVP
Andy Eastlake summed up the event by acknowledging that there was a great deal of vision in the day’s presentations, and to move from where we are now to achieve the vision, collaboration is needed – which is exactly how the LowCVP can help, by facilitating ‘progress through partnership’.
The LowCVP and its members have identified key ambitions and actions for the next two years:
For more information about the LowCVP visit www.lowcvp.org.uk
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