For more than twelve years, the Greater London Authority has encouraged people to dump the pump for plug-in electric cars by offering drivers of low and zero emission cars exemption to the Congestion Charging fee levied against any vehicle travelling into London’s busy inner core.
Its goal? To reduce air pollution and congestion while promoting greener, cleaner ways of travelling around the UK’s capital city. Alongside the congestion charging zone (and Boris Bikes) the GLA has worked to set itself up as a green leader in Europe. But while London would like to see itself as both a green and electric car capital, the reality is a little different, with unreliable charging infrastructure and oft-blocked charging points making electric car use in London far from easy.
Now Transport for London is keen to change that record and make it easier and simpler to own and operate an electric car in London. And it wants your input through a new online survey it is conducting.
Asking a series of questions about electric car ownership and use throughout the UK’s Capital, the survey — carried out in collaboration with market research firm SPA Future Thinking — aims to ‘closely inform the narrative surrounding electric car use in London.’ In other words, the responses to the survey will help policymakers decide what works and doesn’t work when it comes to electric car support and charging provision.
In addition to asking the respondents what their motivation was for buying a plug-in car and how many miles on average they travel every day in it, the question asks more open-ended questions like “Imagine you were part of a committee responsible for expanding the network of public charge points in London, what would be the one thing you would campaign for?”
We spoke to representatives from both TfL and London’s charging provider Bluepoint London (which assumed control of TfL’s Source London charging network in 2014) about the survey and electric car charging station reliability in London overall. While both admitted that charging station provision wasn’t where they wanted it, the two organisations were clear about their hopes for the future.
TfL, for example, said that its commissioning of the online survey was part of a much wider push towards a lower-emission London, with the outcomes of the survey informing policy making decision moving forward. Other projects, including implementing the necessary infrastructure required to help the Taxi Cab industry transition its all new fleet to plug-in capable vehicles by 2018, will run concurrently with work to make Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for an ultra low-emission zone around central London by 2020 a reality.
In an official statement, Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Strategy and Planning at TfL said “we are currently conducting an online survey which examines electric vehicle and charging infrastructure usage in London. The results of the survey will be used to inform our planning and strategy in this area.”
Bluepoint London, owned and operated by the Bolloré group that succeeded in bringing electric car sharing to Paris through the AutoLib program, admits that electric car charging provision and reliability in London isn’t yet where it wants it to be.
One of the challenges facing the company concerns charging point maintenance. While Bluepoint London is the operator for South London, it currently isn’t responsible for the maintenance of all charging points that form part of the Source London Network, a problem it inherited from TfL. At the moment, it is working hard to encourage partner boroughs to sign new maintenance agreements granting it physical access to repair and replace charging units as necessary. So far, Sutton and Southwark have signed onto the new contracts, but it is still working hard to encourage other boroughs to join up.
Of the 1,400 points in the Source London scheme, the most recent audit carried out by Bluepoint London cites 23 percent of all points as being out of service versus 35 percent in June last year.
But as always, the real proof of what it’s like to live with or drive a plug-in car in London is far more than simple statistics. It’s about daily experiences: experiences that you’re being asked to share now in this online survey.
So if you have the time to answer the fifteen-minute survey and live in or regularly travel to London in an electric car, now’s your chance to have your opinions heard. In return for taking part, participants will be entered into a prize-draw to win an Apple iPad Mini 3.
TransportEvolved is not connected to TfL, Bluepoint London, SPA Future Thinking or the survey being covered.
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