Transport Committee - Plug-in vehicles, plugged in policy?Written evidence from Transport for London

1. Introduction

1.1 Transport for London (TfL) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s inquiry into Low Carbon Vehicles.

1.2 The Electric Vehicle (EV) agenda has high level support from the UK Government because the move to EVs is seen not only as an environmental innovation but also as a potential platform to drive investment and job creation in the UK as part of new technology and the vehicle industries. Developing a local market for EVs is considered critical to attaining UK Government goals regarding EV investment and growth.

1.3 In May 2011, TfL launched Source London, a London-wide EV charging network which is being installed by the consortium of public and private partners. EV drivers can join Source London for a £10 annual fee and use any charge point in the scheme with no cost for the electricity (though parking charges may apply).

1.4 Source London and its infrastructure is key to building confidence in and boosting the new EV market and as such it is critical to support the Mayor of London’s aspiration that London be the EV capital of Europe with 100,000 EVs as soon as possible.

2. The Contribution of Plug-in Vehicles to Decarbonising Transport

2.1 Electric vehicles have no tailpipe so they do not produce any emissions whilst driving—they are cleaner and quieter than petrol or diesel vehicles on the road. Encouraging the market and uptake of electric vehicles will help improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and aims to put the UK at the leading edge of this new technology.

2.2 The CO2 produced by an EV is directly related to how the electricity it uses is produced, but even using the current standard UK grid supply, a pure EV is estimated to produce up to 40% less CO2 than an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle (on a well to wheel basis).

2.3 In central London, road transport accounts for over 80% of particulate matter emissions and for 46% of NOx emissions across Greater London. EVs, therefore, also have significant potential to help address the issue of air quality in London in the future.

2.4 In London around 90% of all car trips are less than six miles, and across the UK over 99% of all car journeys are less than 100 miles. Pure electric cars available now or coming to the market shortly, typically have a range of around 100 miles and are therefore well placed to meet transport needs.

2.5 Electric vehicles form part of a wider package of measures which TfL and the Mayor are undertaking to reduce CO2 emissions from Transport. The Mayor has committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2025 (from 1990 levels) and TfL is helping to meet this target by promoting sustainable travel, running vehicles more efficiently, and using greener vehicles and fuels. This includes trialling hydrogen fuel cell buses and bringing hybrid buses into the fleet.

3. Uptake of Plug-in Vehicles and how this can be Improved

3.1 London is a key market for EVs. DVLA data indicates that there are currently 2,400 pure electric vehicles in London from a total of £15,300 in Great Britain and 25,700 hybrid vehicles registered in London form a total of 111,400 in GB.

3.2 The key obstacles which TfL perceives to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles include:

Range anxiety where EV users limit the journeys they undertake to avoid being stranded should the battery in the vehicle run flat. Trials to date, both in the UK and in Japan, indicate that users quickly adapt to charging overnight at home and that public charging infrastructure is not in fact utilised extensively. However, range anxiety remains a key perceptual barrier to EV take up and where charging infrastructure is not in place EV users significantly under utilise their EVs;

capital costs as EVs typically have a much higher purchase cost that equivalent petrol or diesel vehicles, largely due to the expense of the battery technology;

residual value (second hand value) which, as EVs are so new, has not yet been established. There is no second-hand market and no track record to establish what the lifespan of an EV—particularly the battery—may actually be. Therefore the battery life and residual value estimates can only be theoretical and in business financial modelling EVs are often accorded a residual value of zero for this reason;

customer information is limited. Customers have limited information about the actual capabilities and types of EVs available. The majority of customers have no experience of driving or using an EV. Therefore, there is a very poor understanding of the practical realities of EVs; and

lack of agreed international standards. This creates confusion and an increased perception of risk for consumers. It also means that both private and public sector investors in this sector may waste significant levels of investment should subsequent standardisation render their investment obsolete.

3.3 EV users will predominantly charge overnight at home. Therefore, additional support for home charging, particularly to insist that EV users have the correct checks and a safe EV supply installed into their home, is critical. A standard domestic 13 amp plug is not recommended as safe for charging an EV. Mandatory standards from the Government would increase costs but will address safety concerns raised by the electricity industry arising from unsuitable charging solutions. Charging infrastructure is therefore critical to providing potential purchasers with the confidence to buy and use an EV in London.

3.4 The London Plan requires that all new developments provide 20% of car parking spaces with charging capability, ensuring developments are equipped to manage future demand.

3.5 The Source London public charging network provides a top up charging facility across the capital, which addresses range anxiety. This represents a means to pump-prime and stimulate the early market development for EVs in the UK, paving the way for market driven solutions in the future. The scheme is critical to establish a population of EVs within London and to more broadly support development of the EV market. TfL liaison with UK Government, the SMMT and EV manufacturers indicates that the new charging infrastructure is welcomed by all the major EV manufacturers who are investing hundreds of millions in bringing new EVs to market.

3.6 However, given the uncertainty around how much public charging infrastructure will in fact be utilised in the long term and the lack of any internationally agreed charging standards, TfL would question whether significant investment in very expensive rapid charging infrastructure is necessary or appropriate at this juncture.

3.7 EVs are currently expensive largely due to the costs of battery technology. Although some reduction in costs can be expected as production volumes increase, it is not clear that there is significant scope to reduce battery costs by a large margin due to the expensive inputs required. It may be, therefore, that EVs retain a higher capital cost over time, despite greater market penetration.

3.8 TfL has developed two procurement frameworks (for infrastructure and vehicles) which will help deliver best value to public sector bodies and partner organisations wishing to invest in electric vehicles. There are also incentives available to customers including the 100% discount from the Congestion Charge, zero Vehicle Excise Duty and Government Plug-in Vehicle Grants. However, these only go some way to meet the barrier of higher upfront capital cost typical of EVs.

3.9 Some manufacturers are introducing new purchasing models where the battery—the most expensive element of the vehicle—can be rented rather than purchased. This brings the capital cost down to a level more comparable to a petrol or diesel equivalent and the battery rental costs is on a par with petrol cost if a given level of mileage is undertaken each month. This model goes some way to address the capital cost issue and provides guarantees around battery life and performance which in turn address issues for the residual value of the vehicle.

3.10 EVs are so new that the residual value of vehicles is not known. This is primarily due to uncertainty over the useful life expectancy of the car battery and how expensive they are to replace. A battery will degrade over time and reduce the effective range of the vehicle so reducing its usefulness and therefore value. The new technology, therefore, causes concern because the business model for purchasing an EV without an evidential base for the EV lifespan and second hand value is uncertain.

3.11 Lack of established life span and residual values is a significant barrier particularly in leasing and financing approaches commonly used by many vehicle purchasers, especially fleet managers, which rely on a residual value to drive the financial models. TfL would welcome further action to provide information support for the financial and insurance industries to help address this key issue. TfL is working with the Energy Saving Trust and EDF in a fleet initiative to help understand how EVs can best be utilised in fleet operations and can provide a clear financial benefit. There will be 20 projects funded in total by TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT).

3.12 As EVs are new, there is low public awareness of what vehicles are available and whether they are a suitable replacement for a conventional vehicle.

3.13 TfL is working to share best practice locally and internationally and to disseminate information via the Source London website (, however, TfL recognises more could be done in this area.

3.14 TfL hosts the London Electric Vehicle Partnership (LEVP) which meets twice a year with a range of stakeholders from the public and private sectors to debate and discuss the future of EVs in London. TfL also provides the secretariat for the Mayor’s Electric 20, comprising business members (including Nissan, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Marks and Spencer, UPS, TNT Express, DHL, Amey, Go Ahead, Speedy, Royal Mail) already using electric vehicles in their fleets on a daily basis. The forum provides experience, knowledge and support for companies looking to follow in their footsteps in adopting EVs.

3.15 New technology is emerging all the time and in 2012, TfL will work in partnership with Qualcomm to trial new inductive (wireless) charging technology in London. This new technology will be fitted to some of TfL’s own EV fleet and to private hire vehicles later this year. The trial is expected to last for at least a year and will further the development of this innovative technology which is currently not market ready.

3.16 TfL is also part of “Low Carbon London”. Co-ordinated by UK Power Networks, this is an Ofgem funded project that is researching new technology to explore use of smart grid technology to deliver lower carbon electricity in the future. The project includes investigation of smart metering technology in a number of scenarios including for use with EVs. TfL will encourage Source London members and TfL staff to participate in the trial and use a new smart meter to monitor electricity use in the home and, where applicable, for their EV. Source London will also supply information on charge point usage. The trial will provide a wealth of data on use of EVs for TfL, grid impacts of new technology such as EVs and inform future development of the electricity grid.

4. The Effectiveness of the Plugged-in Places (PiP) Scheme

4.1 Source London currently has 361 charge points and is on target to install 600 by the end of April 2012. The overall target is 1,300 charge points by 2013. Source London is the largest network of public charge points in the UK. This could not have been achieved without the support provided by the PiP scheme.

4.2 Source London’s service is built on the success of a large scale innovative public-private sector partnership, where 31 partners part-fund, own and install charge points and make them available to Source London customers.

4.3 The Source London EV charging point network is the product of a public and private sector collaboration coordinated and managed by TfL. In February 2010, the Source London consortium was awarded £9.3 million over three years to 2013–14 of the £30 million PiP grant available nationally. Consortium partners purchase and install charge points and the PiP monies are used to reimburse 50% of the cost. Partners continue to own the charge points but these are made available for Londoners to use via the Source London network. Consortium partners pay for the electricity used at their own points so that Source London members pay only an annual fee (of £10) and electricity is then free at the point of use, though parking charges may apply at some points.

4.4 The Source London network replaces the patchwork of charging schemes that previously operated in individual boroughs and for the first time offers genuine pan-London coverage. TfL is also working with our neighboring PiP regions with the express aim of being able to offer customers access to multiple networks, enabling EV owners to roam across existing charging networks easily.

4.5 Siemens are providing the back office, IT infrastructure and call centre support for Source London free of charge (to TfL) under a unique sponsorship arrangement until March 2014. The back office functionality enables all the charging points in the scheme, from various manufacturers, to be operated with a single smart card. This innovative technology allows charging points with different operating models from different manufacturers to work together to provide a seamless customer experience.

4.6 Cards are issued to members for a £10 annual fee with the scheme operating as a seamless whole to the customer, visually tied together by the shared Source London branding that is on the membership card and all charging points.

4.7 Anyone with an EV registered with the DVLA can join (vans, cars and motorcycles and scooters can join but electric bicycles cannot). Registrations are taken online at and payment can be made using a debit or credit card. Once members receive their membership card, they can use any of the Source London charging points and access electricity free of charge.

4.8 TfL is also working in partnership with British Gas to provide PiP funding to support installation of home and work place charging across London and provide Source London membership as part of the charging package. It is hoped that other suppliers will also be interested in accessing support for this type of initiative.

4.9 TfL is working with the DfT’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), other cities, Source London partners, and industry to identify potential options for a self sustaining business model for EV charging. Various options are being considered by TfL in order to secure the continuity of Source London beyond 2014 (when the current Siemens sponsorship and Government PiP funds stop).

4.10 The PiP scheme is successfully delivering its stated aim of installing EV charging infrastructure. The funding has enabled creative commercial thinking to create and operate a city-wide network with minimal burden on the public purse.

4.11 However, the EV market is evolving rapidly with new private sector providers coming into the market. It is unclear that there is a need to pursue investment of public monies in public charge point provision when private sector investors are appearing to fulfil this role. However, what is lacking is a consistent framework within which charge point providers can operate. It is currently unclear how the market can evolve to supply an integrated and easy customer experience nationwide without such a framework. London has worked hard to integrate a number of charge point manufacturers into one seamless network and this issue must be tackled on a national scale if an interoperable national network is to be achieved. TfL would welcome guidance from Government regarding future national policy.

5. The Role of Plug-in Vehicles Alongside other Technologies to Reduce Carbon Emissions from Road Transport

5.1 Any measures seeking to reduce emission from road transport should look at the transport network as an integrated whole. There is significant scope to reduce carbon emission from the transport sector via investment in public transport and active travel solutions such as cycling and walking.

5.2 There is significant scope to improve the efficiency and reduce the carbon impact of the petrol/diesel engine and this should not be overlooked. Improved carbon performance from vehicle manufacturers is largely being driven by current European legislation. This is, therefore, a critically important avenue for the Government to support in ongoing development of EU regulation to drive innovation and investment in the future.

5.3 Other technological solutions will also have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions from road transport and EVs are one of a portfolio of technologies, rather than the whole solution.

5.4 In addition, 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.

6. Action taken by other Countries to Encourage the Uptake of Plug-in Vehicles

6.1 TfL works regularly with partners in other countries to share knowledge about plug-in vehicles.

6.2 TfL is a partner in CAPIRE (Co-ordination Action on PPP Implementation for Road-transport Electrification), an EC-funded project as part of the European Green Cars Initiative. It includes 14 partners, led by Renault and including Volvo, CRF, Procter &Gamble, Bosch, Valeo, Iberdrola, TfL and others. CAPIRE is a four-year co-ordination project which commenced Dec 2010, with key outputs due this year to inform EV themes in future EU grant funding allocations. The project’s workstreams include developing vehicle electrification roadmaps, as well as research into low carbon freight/urban logistics and PPP models.

6.3 TfL would welcome action from the Government to establish common international charging standards to ensure that ongoing investment in charging infrastructure is not wasted

7. Conclusions

7.1 TfL fully recognises the potential of low carbon vehicles to deliver significantly cleaner transport, but would urge the Committee to recognise that this must sit within the context of ongoing investment in public and active travel solutions.

7.2 There is significant potential to reduce the impact of existing petrol or diesel technology which, given the timeframe for implementing mass market roll out of potential low carbon solutions must not be lost.

7.3 Electric vehicles are widely recognised as the best developed low carbon road transport technology at the moment and TfL is actively supporting development of this market. TfL welcomes Government investment via the Plugged in Places scheme which has been critical to delivering a public charging network in the capital.

7.4 TfL would welcome further support to integrate information provision to customers, both individual and business. In particular information support to ancillary financial and insurance sectors to educate providers is critical to enable the development of more realistic business models for purchasing and operating plug in vehicles.

7.5 TfL would welcome further action on creating industry standards and commercial frameworks to secure customer safety, reduce investment risk and to drive an integrated customer proposition from this new industry.

April 2012

Prepared 20th September 2012