Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London said in his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week:

“London is the Greatest city on Earth.

I want it to be the greenest.

We are going to have to get to grips with one of the great menaces of urban life.

Air pollution.

We can save thousands of lives every year, in part thanks to the creativity of the market.

You can already drive from this hall to London’s City Hall for £5 in an all-electric British-made Nissan Leaf!

We need to accelerate that transition.”

Electric cars are exempt from the Congestion Charge. They are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty.

The Nissan Leaf’s UK sales were 699 in 2013, 1,812 in 2013 and 4,051 last year. The introduction of a new 30kWh battery, will deliver a range of 155 miles, up 25 per cent.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers reports 11,842 ULEVs were registered between January and May – a four-fold rise on the 2,838 registrations in the same period last year.

London has 8,000 privately owned electric vehicles compared with 3,000 last year. Soon the world’s first double decker electric bus will be in service – the number 16 from Cricklewood to Victoria Station.

We can all spot the trend.

Yet some councils have been slow to make progress. For example my own local authority of Hammersmith and Fulham has no on-street Electric Vehicle charging point. I was told:

“LBHF are still determining the exact number and location of the EV bays to be installed on-street. It is anticipated at present that the first of these will be installed in early 2016. There are no firm numbers of how many will be installed either in 2016 or 2017.”

Given that there have been 1,400 new charging points in the past three years across London I would certainly conclude that my own council could be doing better.

Another nudge that some councils give is free parking permits for electric cars. Westminster Council provides this.

Councils should also ensure that their own car fleets consist of electric vehicles.

Electric cars should be allowed to use bus lanes. Transport for London have opposed this change because they are only considering their own convenience in terms of running the bus network rather than looking at the overall picture.

Air quality in London is much better than it used to be – since 1970, PM levels have fallen by 70 per cent and nitrogen dioxide levels by 62 per cent. But air pollution is still reckoned to cause 3,000 deaths in London a year, according to Public Health England. Some other estimates put the death toll higher. That is on a quite different scale to the number murdered or killed in road accidents. Apart from air pollution ending life earlier, it is also less enjoyable while it lasts – with heart disease and lung disease.

Electric cars are very much a free enterprise Conservative solution to an environmental problem. It is not necessary to be anti motorist and restrict choice and constrain lifestyles in the way the eco miserablists on the Left are always aching to do.

In all sorts of ways the market is delivering cleaner air through technological advancement, of which electric cars are just an example. But politicians should still do more to nudge it along. This is, after all, a matter of life and death.

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