The Air I Breathe– Letters to the London Mayor

Dear Mr. Khan,

While you have attempted to make progress on London’s air quality, your policies have not gone far enough.

I’m 33, I’ve lived in London for 12 years and I’d like to call London home for another 12 years.

The idea of starting a family in London and having them breathe this toxic air is less than desirable.

I consider myself a proud Londoner and believe it is the greatest city in the world.

While you have made incremental steps to try and improve it, you haven’t take steps that London deserves. London is a world-class city that deserves courageous, world-leading decisions.

Buses

Shenzhen is leading the world in electrified transport. All their buses are electric and Shanghai is following closely transforming their fleet to EVs in 2020. That’s 2 years earlier than they initially planned.

According to TFL, London plans to roll out an all-electric fleet by 2037. 2037! It’s embarrassing and negligent when comparing with more ambitious countries like China. How are we supposed to compete when we set lacklustre goals like this?

Taxis

You’ve taken small steps to make London’s notoriously dirty diesel black cabs off the road. We now have some hybrid black cabs with the aim of taking cabs more than 12 years old off the road. Why hybrid and not full EV? Why 12 years and not 5? Again, your lack of courage and hard measures to protect and prioritise our health is severely lacking.

In Shenzhen, 99% of taxis are fully electric. They’re the first city in the world to implement this and have produced a blueprint for London to build upon.

Cars

Car manufacturers wont push EV technology because they care about our wellbeing. They will do it under two circumstances 1) it makes them more money or; 2) they’re forced by regulation.

In order for manufacturers to take notice, it requires a city like London to ban the use of combustion engines. Small slaps on the wrist like a £12.50 congestion charge won’t work for those who are already wealthy enough to drive in London. It requires much harder measures that will directly influence manufacturers and their product roadmap decisions.

It’s an opportunity

While London’s air quality is a threat to our health and London’s growth, I believe we have the opportunity to show the world what a post-combustion engine city can look like.

With world-leading initiatives and regulation, London could become a hotbed for innovation around the fast-growing EV industry.

There’s clearly the technical abilities to deliver electric transport. What’s lacking is your ambition to deliver it. Do what’s right and have the vision and courage to deliver a more ambitious and visionary plan.

Dean

Hi Dean,

Thank you for your email of 18 April in which you shared you concerns about London’s air quality.

The Mayor believes poor air quality is not only a public health issue but a matter of social justice. We estimate thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely from long-term exposure to air pollution every year with other health impacts over the course of our lives. Research demonstrates these health effects disproportionately impact the most deprived communities.

This is why the amount of money committed to tackling the capital’s air quality crisis has significantly increased over five years. Transport for London’s Business Plan, for example, includes roughly £800 million to deliver far-reaching programmes to address the threat to health from poor air.

Around half of London’s air pollution is caused by road transport and there is no way to make a massive improvement to London’s air quality without taking the most polluting vehicles off the road. Some actions include:

  • Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019 to help remove older polluting vehicles from central London. The ULEZ boundaries will be extended in 2021 to the North and South Circulars for all vehicles, and in 2020 tougher emissions standards will be introduced London-wide for lorries, coaches and buses;
  • Transforming London’s bus fleet by phasing out of pure diesel buses and a commitment to purchase only hybrid or zero-emission double decker buses from 2018, with the entire fleet becoming ‘zero emission’ by 2037;
  • Introducing the first ten Low Emission Bus Zones in areas where Londoners are exposed to some of the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, with the final two expected by the end of 2019;
  • Making sure we no longer licence new diesel taxis from 2018 and supporting the trade to upgrade to much cleaner ‘zero emission capable’ vehicles;
  • Introducing Five Low Emission Neighbourhoods, spanning eight boroughs and involving a range of local businesses. In addition to continuing the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund, these targeted actions will tackle some of the worst pollution hotspots across London, with TfL contributing £14 million;
  • A £48 million fund to support scrappage schemes that will help smaller business owners, charities and low-income Londoners scrap older, more polluting vehicles and switch to cleaner alternatives.

The GLA is also taking forward a number of initiatives to reduce pollutants from other sources, such as construction machinery and gas boilers.

The Mayor’s ambition is for London to have a zero-emission transport network by 2050 and to help drivers move away from combustion engines he has committed to a major expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, in partnership with the private sector. The government has established a national rapid charging network across the UK to support long distance journeys and London now has its own rapid charging network with around 100 points that can charge a vehicle in around 20 minutes. In the coming year, most London boroughs will start to roll out charging infrastructure in residential areas to help Londoners charge their vehicles overnight.

You can learn more about the Mayor’s plans for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure on TfL’s website here, https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/electric-vehicles-and-rapid-charging.

I hope the above provides assurance that improving London’s air quality is a priority for the Mayor and he is taking action to address this issue.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to the Mayor.

Kind regards,

Stella Yeung

Air Quality Team

Dear Stella,

Thanks for your reply, however, a zero emissions target for London’s transport by 2050 isn’t ambitious, or responsible.

The government’s primary role is looking after its citizen’s well-being. London’s air quality is like being forced to smoke cigarettes because of governments lack of courage and vision for a clean, forward thinking city.

If Tesla can make full EV cars that travel hundreds of miles, why are our buses hybrid, at best?

If China can roll out EV buses and taxis across almost 100% of their fleet, why can’t London?

Why are London’s new black cabs hybrids and not full EVs? Why do you let operators like Uber provide services that aren’t full EV?

There is the technical ability to do these things, so please tell me why London isn’t doing them?

Best,

Dean

Hi Dean

Thank you for your email and additional comments.

The Mayor’s London Environment Strategy does include a commitment to a zero-emission transport system by 2050 and in order to help achieve this, the Mayor has committed, through Transport for London, to ensuring all taxis and private hire vehicles are zero emission capable by 2033.

There are over 2,000 electric taxis licensed in London following TfL’s requirement to stop licensing new diesel taxis.

TfL provides financial incentives to enable this switch to cleaner taxis and over 220 rapid charge points have been installed, with many dedicated to the trade. Also, from 2022, the maximum age of older polluting diesel taxis will be reduced to 12 years to accelerate uptake of cleaner vehicles.

In 2020, London’s entire bus fleet will meet ULEZ standards reducing emissions by around 80 per cent. This contributes to almost half of the 28 per cent reduction in NOx London-wide by 2021 as a result of the Mayor’s policies.

It would be possible to make more emissions savings from buses by moving to a fully electric fleet, but TfL estimate this would cost well over a billion pounds to do and would save 365 tonnes of NOx. In reality, only a fraction of these savings could be made by 2021 with the technology on the market today.

The emissions savings from cars, vans and other non-TfL vehicles following ULEZ expansion in 2021 is almost 2,000 tonnes of NOx London-wide. This is five times the potential savings from electrifying the bus fleet.

Cleaning the bus fleet alone is not enough if we are to do everything we can to help Londoners breathe cleaner air. The majority of toxic road transport emissions come from cars, so we need to take action to encourage people to drive less and upgrade to cleaner vehicles.

The Mayor is particularly keen to ensure that the public sector lead the switch to electric. TfL currently operates the largest zero emission bus fleet in Europe and all new double deck buses need to be hybrid, electric or hydrogen.

There are now over 20,000 electric vehicles on our streets, and we are delivering a lot of new charge points to help even more people make the switch. TfL is creating a network of 300 rapid charge points, which can charge a car in 20 to 30 minutes and 220 have been delivered so far. London boroughs have also installed over 1,200 new lamp column charge points to help residents without off-street parking to charge their car overnight.

Whilst we are making great progress – London has 25 per cent of all charge points in the UK – the Mayor wants London to lead the world in embracing an electric revolution in transport. That’s why he recently launched London’s first ever Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Delivery Plan. This was the result of the collective endeavours of over 140 organisations, including leaders from London’s business community. It gives greater assurance on how we’ll be working with the private sector and boroughs to expand charging points out to 2025.

You can learn more about the Mayor’s plans for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure on TfL’s website here, https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/electric-vehicles-and-rapid-charging.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to us.

Kind regards,

Stella.

Air Quality Team

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Co-Founder and CEO at Bitcompare

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