There is growing agreement, including amongst the vehicle manufacturing industry, that electric vehicle technology is the most market ready green technology with the potential for significant uptake in the short to medium term.
Pure Electric Vehicles do not have an exhaust pipe and so they do not produce any emissions when they are driven - they are cleaner and quieter than petrol or diesel vehicles on the road. EVs produce around 40% less Co2 than equivalent petrol or diesel vehicles. Encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles will help improve air quality, reduce CO2 emissions and aims to put the UK at the leading edge of this new technology. Although vehicle manufacturers have made significant progress over the last few years in producing cleaner diesel and petrol vehicles, more still needs to be done to address critical air quality problems in London.
Electric vehicles are one of a portfolio of green technologies rather than the whole solution. The Mayor has published the London Hydrogen Action Plan and supports the London Hydrogen Partnership, a group of public and private bodies working to establish a hydrogen economy in London.
Can I use the Source London charging points that are currently being installed to charge my vehicle now?
No. This is a serious global commitment to cutting emissions. There is growing agreement, including amongst the vehicle manufacturing industry, that electric vehicle technology is the most ‘near to market’ green technology with the potential for uptake in the short- to medium- term. Current efforts being made by manufacturers and all parties involved demonstrate that EV technology is something worth investing in and that they continue to make a long-term proposition for the future of road transport.
TfL has worked with public and private partners to develop the Source London network of charge points across London, ensuring that the necessary public charging infrastructure is in place to support a significant uptake of EVs.
Will the National Grid be able to cope with demand for electricity?
The Mayor’s Electric Vehicle Delivery Plan aims to achieve 100,000 electric vehicles on London’s roads as soon as possible. While this is a significant step forward for the EV market, it is still represents only about 3% of the London vehicle fleet. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), EV electricity demand is not expected to exceed 0.3% of total electricity consumption by 2020, even in the most optimistic scenarios for EV market growth. This number of EVs is not expected to have any significant overall impact on the London grid.
Electricity companies are also working with EV manufacturers to prepare for the future. In the short- to medium-term, electricity suppliers may incentivise off-peak charging though cheaper overnight rates. In the longer run, electricity demand will be managed through the development of smart metering systems and intelligent charging which can automatically select charging times to take advantage of lower carbon energy – whenever it’s available.
Where is the funding for all this infrastructure going to come from?
TfL is leading a London consortium of public and private partners involved in the Government’s Plugged-In Places (PiP) initiative. PiP provides match funding from the Department for Transport (up to 50%) for the installation of publicly-accessible electric vehicle charge points for partners in the consortium.
TfL has also partnered with Siemens to provide the back office and IT functionality for the Source London network at no cost to the public purse.
What is the environmental impact of battery manufacture and disposal?
It is difficult to give a precise answer on the environmental impact of battery manufacture. However, the latest lithium ion batteries used in EVs have a lower environmental impact than other battery technologies, including lead-acid, nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride.
Lithium ion cells are composed of much more environmentally benign materials; in particular they do not contain heavy metals (e.g. cadmium) or compounds that are considered toxic, e.g. lead or nickel. Lithium iron phosphate is also essentially a fertiliser.
As more recycled materials are used the overall environmental impact is reduced. The first lithium battery recycling facility opened in North America in early 2010 which will eventually reduce the direct impact of the demand for raw materials on the environment. Similar recycling capability is being planned in the UK and across Europe.
What about public transport vehicles, are they going electric too?
TfL is working to reduce bus emissions through hybrid and alternative fuel technologies. There are already a number of diesel-electric hybrid buses in use across London and TfL intend to have 300 hybrid buses in operation by 2013. Following successful trials of first-generation hydrogen fuel cell buses in central London, TfL has taken delivery of hydrogen hybrid fuel cell buses for the RV1 route between Covent Garden and Tower Hill via the South Bank so the route is now operated by Fuel Cell buses only. TfL and other GLA bodies are also incorporating electric vehicles into their support fleets at different times and for different uses.
Will I be able to charge my vehicle in a similar way to filling up at a petrol station?
TfL has worked in partnership with London boroughs and other organisations to install the Source London network of publicly accessible charge points located on streets, at supermarkets, in public car parks and transport hubs, and at retail and leisure facilities. The eventual aim is that no Londoner will be more than a mile on average from a charge point.
While most of these charge points will allow vehicles to charge over a number of hours, the intention is that a small number of points in the network will be rapid chargers which can top up a battery within 20 minutes.
Doesn’t the production of electricity produce CO2 and other climate changing emissions?
The CO2 produced by an EV is directly related to the how the electricity it uses is produced. Only electricity generated from renewable sources produces no CO2 emissions.
When comparing conventional petrol or diesel vehicles with EVs, it is important to look at ‘well-to-wheel’ emissions over the life of the vehicle (including manufacture), not just those produced at the point of use. Taking into account the current mix of fuels used to generate the standard UK electricity supply, electric vehicles produce up to 40% less CO2 emissions than similar petrol or diesel vehicles.
As the proportion of renewable energy sources used to produce electricity for the UK standard supply increases, the amount of CO2 generated to power electric vehicles will fall.
EV owners who can charge at home could choose a green energy tariff from their energy supplier to further minimise the CO2 produced by their vehicle.
TfL undertook a study in 2010 to review the impact of potentially allowing EVs into bus lanes and found the increased volume of vehicles in the bus lanes would cause delays to buses. An increase in bus journey times and stop/start conditions in bus lanes through the addition of EVs is likely to increase bus emissions and partially offset any emission benefits from EVs.
TfL research has also shown that journey time savings would only be minimal if EVs were allowed in bus lanes. This is due to stop/start conditions within bus lanes, friction with buses and vehicles in other lanes and the fact that bus lanes cover only a small percentage of the road network.
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