London pushes motorists toward using only electric cars

Reed Landberg and Jeremy Hodges
Bloomberg News

London’s lawmakers aren’t against cars and vans driving through its most congested parts, as long as they turn electric soon.

A suite of policies aimed at cleaning up London’s toxic air pollution isn't there to penalize drivers but to improve public health, Shirley Rodrigues, London’s deputy mayor for environment and energy, said recently at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit.

“The mayor has been really clear that he’s not anti-cars, he’s anti-pollution,” said Rodrigues. Policies are in place to encourage people to use public transport more frequently, greening the city center and making it more pleasant to walk around. The journeys that are necessary to take by car should “be electrified.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Mayor Sadiq Khan has put cutting air pollution at the heart of his agenda after it became clear the city had been consistently breaching European Union clean air rules since 2010.

In 2017, some parts of London ran past their annual limit just five days into the new year.

As well as increasing spending on cycle paths and widening sidewalks to make streets more inviting for pedestrians, streets have narrowed in many places. Khan introduced an ultra-low emission zone that charges older, more polluting cars a levy to drive through central London.

Together, the measures are aimed at coaxing people out of cars and onto public transport in a bid to reduce harmful emissions.

Khan committed London to be being carbon-neutral my mid-century months before the national government set out its plans to hit net-zero by 2050. The London government also wants to see zero-emissions zones in place by 2025.

“This is the direction of travel,” Rodrigues said.

The introduction of a policy not to license new diesel versions of the iconic black taxis has seen the deployment onto the streets of 1,700 cabs capable of working with zero emissions.

“There are jobs here and financial opportunities, so we’re trying to show that is what is needed and that’s what is possible,” she said.