Mayor’s electric car scheme runs flat

12.00 | 12 August 2013 | | 4 comments

Boris Johnson’s ambition to make London the electric vehicle capital of Europe has been shunned by motorists, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

The Standard says that three-quarters of the Capital’s estimated 800 charging points were not used at all last year, despite the service being offered for free.

The Mayor has set up Europe’s largest urban network of charging points in a £9.3 million project with the Department for Transport (DfT).

Mr Johnson’s ‘Source London’ scheme recently expanded to 1,300 points in car parks at supermarkets, hospitals and rail stations, as well as on residential streets. Energy is supplied by EDF and motorists can charge cars for free after paying a £10 annual membership.

The Standard report says that figures obtained by the London Assembly Liberal Democrats showed that in the last four months of 2012, only 198 of 800 points were used.

For many points the average use was just one to four minutes a day, suggesting they were only used once or twice over this period. As charging a vehicle fully can take a number of hours, figures suggest only a few dozen are even charging a single car per day on average.

Stephen Knight, the Assembly Lib-Dems’ environment spokesman, said: “Source London is clearly failing to have much impact. A growing network of charging points primarily for private electric cars may have long-term merit but the Mayor’s first priority must be to switch London’s 20,000 diesel taxis and 8,500 buses to electric power.”

John Mason, Source London director, said: “We’re putting the infrastructure in now so motorists know there’s somewhere convenient to recharge their car and ensure there is capacity as electric vehicle use becomes more common.

“Tightening the congestion charge discount so only the cleanest vehicles qualify and the ultra-low emission zone introduction are set to encourage further electric car take-up in London.”

Click here to read the full Evening Standard report.


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    I would have been more surprised if these points were being widely used so soon. This is a long term project to put the infra structure in place that will then enable people in London to see choosing an electric car as a viable option. I would expect that they will be making these decisions over the next few years as they come to replace an existing vehicle. Similarly commercial fleet owners will need the network to be in place before thay can include it in their fleet decision making process. If the charging point network is not already there, fewer people will entertain the idea of an electric vehicle but if it exists, there is an available alternative.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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    People always talk of “range anxiety” being the major problem with encouraging people to take up electric cars and although this may be a bit of a problem, by far the most difficult and intractable problem is the fact that once you reach a charging point your vehicle is guaranteed to be out of commission for at least eight hours. On the other hand with a petrol engined vehicle your guaranteed downtime is about ten minutes which is all it usually takes to fill the tank.

    The Chinese recently banned small petrol engined motorcycles from major city centres and allowed only bikes with electric motors. The Chinese being a clever bunch soon worked out that nobody was going to kick their heels waiting for a battery to charge, so ‘hot swap’ stations started to spring up all over the place. Rather than use expensive lithium ion batteries the Chinese used conventional lead acid batteries instead. All a rider has to do is to pull in to a hot swap station and a couple of chaps will remove his flat batteries and replace then with fully charged ones in a couple of minutes.

    Perhaps if the electric vehicle evangelists had started by getting people onto electric bikes with lead acid rather than electric cars with lithium ion, we might have a lot more people chosing the electric alternative.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    This report comes as no surprise and is pretty much what I expected. The electric car is a dead duck idea. They are too slow, impractical, far too expensive, chronically overweight and very limited range. They also extremely limited future potential at best. Besides, vast resources (including toxic materials) and emissions are required to produce them for practically no benefit at all. In short, it’s a massive waste of money that could be better spent on road maintenance.

    Phil, Kent
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    This is surprising. Electric car drivers don’t pay the congestion charge, can get a years worth of fuel for £10 and, I presume, get free parking at the charge point all day. If that can’t temp tax payers (who already heavily subsidise electric cars) to buy them, what will?

    One possibility would be to increase fossil fuel prices but how can this be done without crippling the economy and causing mass protest? Simple. Get the government to purchase 3rd party insurance for everyone using a fuel price increase to pay for it. Not only would this encourage greener transport but it would also be cheaper on average for the responsible motorist (at the moment they have to subsidise those who don’t purchase insurance), save huge amounts of police time, save money currently spent on ANPR etc.

    BTW, does anyone know: “what is the average mpg of an electric car?”

    Dave Finney, Slough
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