npower’s Wayne Mitchell on Parisian petrol heads

Can EVs help avoid a Paris-style car ban in London? Motorists in Paris were subjected to a number plate lottery at the start of last week, with 50% of cars […]

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By ELN reporter

Can EVs help avoid a Paris-style car ban in London?

Motorists in Paris were subjected to a number plate lottery at the start of last week, with 50% of cars banned from driving into the city centre in an effort to cut dangerous levels of air pollution.

Smog is becoming a problem for many more cities, especially with the recent high pressure that’s brought in some welcome warm weather – but which also encourages pollution to settle rather than dissipate.

According to the European Environment Agency, many areas in France – as well as parts of Belgium and Germany – have all recently experienced “dangerous” levels of air pollution.

The UK is also under pressure to cut pollution in many cities, with the EU now threatening legal action because no plan to bring about the necessary reductions has been proposed.

London is unsurprisingly a target due to its size – and its topography, sitting in a basin which makes smog more likely to collect.

But what’s the answer? London hasn’t so far imposed a car ban, although reducing traffic via measures such as the Congestion Charge scheme – one of the largest in the world – is believed to have cut pollution. That said, according to Transport for London, congestion has since returned to pre-charging levels.

If cars are still proving so popular, can drivers be tempted out of their petrol versions and into electric vehicles instead? It certainly appears that London Mayor Boris Johnson is hoping so.

Earlier this month, the French Bolloré group won a contract from Transport for London (TfL) to upgrade and extend the capital’s electric car charging network. It plans to increase the current 1400 charging points to 6000 by 2018.

Beautiful – but cheap

Part of the scheme involves pre-bookable electric ‘Bluecars’ that can be used for short journeys in the city. According to Bluecar creator Vincent Bolloré, these EVs are “a beautiful, real car, with four seats but cheap”. They are also reported to have a range of 160 miles with a maximum speed of 81mph (although it’s unlikely London drivers will reach even a quarter of that!).

TfL believes this investment in EV infrastructure is “one more big step” towards improving air quality. According to TfL’s Head of Surface Transport Leon Daniels: “We think electric vehicles are very much the right answer for London and in particular when shared, reducing the total number of vehicles on our streets and drastically reducing emissions.”

While EV use is certainly increasing, having enough charging points is a crucial part of the infrastructure needed for more widespread adoption (as explored in my recent blog, Which comes first – the EV or the charger?).

Certainly, our own npower EV team is finding take-up rising significantly among larger business customers, where the benefits of switching a fleet from petrol to electricity makes sound economic – as well as environmental – sense.

But for EVs to have a significant impact on pollution, especially in cities, far wider adoption is required.

So let’s hope that London is successful. There are also some other innovative schemes afoot in other large cities – and I hope to bring you more news of how npower EV is supporting these in the coming weeks…