Shifting to Electric Vehicles is a key enabler to reduce London’s transport emissions
Addressing London’s carbon emissions is well underway. As a C40 city, the capital’s emissions have fallen 40% between 2000 and 2017. The Mayor’s targets aim to accelerate this, with London becoming a net-zero carbon city by 2030. The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) introduced in April 2019 reduced CO2 emissions by 4% and NO2 emissions by 36% in the first six months alone. However, emissions from transportation remain stubbornly high having reduced by only 7%, the slowest rate of decline across any group of polluters.
Out of 379 local authority districts across the UK, parts of Greater London had the highest CO2 emissions by area in 2019 with road transportation a major contributor, although London has made progress over the past 20 years with overall CO2 emissions declining by around 37%.
London, however, is using electrification to support the Mayor’s ambition of becoming net-zero by 2030. Ambitious electric bus targets have resulted in Western Europe’s largest fleet of zero-emission buses.
Taxi and private hire licensing regulations for vehicle emissions, supported by taxi delicensing payments and grants for those switching to zero emission capable taxis, has meant now around a third of taxis in the capital are electric. EVs are also becoming a more attractive and accessible option for many consumers (10% of new cars in 2021 were Battery EVs), and this number will only accelerate as we move closer to the national ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030.
The challenge now becomes our ability to match the exponential increase of EVs on our roads with the infrastructure that enables them. This is no small task, and modelling suggests that London will need 40,000 — 60,000 charging points by 2030 (4,000 of which will be rapid chargers). We currently have just 9,600 across the capital. The proportion of EVs this infrastructure would support may result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of between 1.5 and 2.6 million tonnes per year by 2030.
Realising this opportunity will present a significant challenge. Assuming a best-case scenario, this means we need to deploy 10 chargers every single day between now and the end of the decade. An enabler to deliver such a capability will be the right level of private sector funding and a regulatory framework that incentivises investment. It will also require close public-private collaboration and information sharing across areas such as demand for EV charging, funding, land use, electrical grid capacity and EV user experience.
At the end of last year, TfL published the 2030 electric vehicles infrastructure strategy, and just recently, the Mayor published the London Net Zero 2030: An Updated Pathway which set out a range of policies to encourage Londoners and those who drive within London to shift from polluting cars to public transport and sustainable active travel and electric vehicles. While recognising the benefits of a greater uptake of public transport and active travel, travel by car will remain a part of the transport mix.
The task is to facilitate the switch and provide the infrastructure required to meet increasing user demand to help the UK achieve net-zero. The challenge is greater than simply increasing the number of EV charging points, it’s ensuring that these chargers meet the needs of consumers, or we risk investment being wasted in infrastructure that is not used to its full potential creating stranded assets for investors and disincentivising future investment.
This article is an extract from our ‘Electric Vehicles: Developing a consumer-led approach to infrastructure planning’ report published in partnership with PwC.