Electric charging points

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered at on 12 February 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

What provision of electric charging points do you expect in London by 2024?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thousands of Londoners die early each year because of toxic air pollution and we are facing a climate emergency that threatens the long‑term security and wellbeing of every Londoner. I am taking action by rolling out the world’s first ULEZ and encouraging more Londoners to use public transport by freezing fares and introducing the Hopper fare, and I am helping people switch to electric vehicles where they are needed.

The progress we have made is clear. When I became Mayor in 2016, there were no electric taxis licensed. We have over 3,000. We now have the largest electric bus fleet in Europe and last year [2019] I established a ground‑breaking Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce. The Taskforce is made up of industry experts who together with my team engaged over 140 organisations and published a robust charging infrastructure delivery plan for the capital. Whilst the plan looks out to 2025, the Taskforce was very clear that setting a specific target for provision of charge points year‑on‑year is not practical. Instead, they identified the necessary enabling work to continue our record delivery and to review progress against potential scenarios, especially given the pace at which vehicle technology is developing and charging requirements are changing.

London begins this decade in a strong position and the Government acknowledges that London leads the electric vehicle infrastructure revolution. Due to our work over the last three years, we have a quarter of all charging points in the UK and over 300 rapid charging points, more than New York or Amsterdam, of which 226 have been delivered by TfL. I am delighted London’s first rapid charging hub was launched in Stratford in December [2019]. This has contributed to my target of 300 rapid chargers in place by the end of 2020. Thanks to the joint GLA/London Councils/TfL Go Ultra Low City Scheme, over 1,700 charge points have been installed near homes, many retrofitted in lamp columns, and a further £4 million has been allocated to deliver 1,000 more this year across 29 boroughs.

However, our record delivery in London will be worthless unless the Government acts now to make its climate change commitments and Road to Zero ambition a reality.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Thank you very much. You reference your own London Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which was published six months ago, and said you are going to need between 2,300 and 4,100 rapid charge points. This was based on modelling of year‑on‑year sales growth of 35%, but last year we saw a rise in sales of electric vehicles in the UK of 144%. I am just wondering how you think you are going to meet this demand if sales in electric vehicles continue in this way?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thanks for your question and, by the way, thanks for your interest and your work on this over the last few years.

What we are doing is making sure we work with the private sector but also the Government to try to make sure we can have the infrastructure there that is required. You will have heard my answer in relation to the rapid charging hub. One of the reasons why we looked at the hub was because we could see patterns of travel changing. At the moment, there is still a huge amount of capacity in both the rapid charging points and the charging points we have. You will have seen the media coverage about the grid and whether it is ready to deal with this. What we are doing is talking to those who provide the energy as well to make sure that those people talk to each other.

You will also be aware, by the way, because of your expertise of the rapid change of technology, that whereas you will have seen almost fridge‑like rapid charging points even 12 months ago, we are now told we can do them much smaller, which means councils are more willing to give permission. We are spending a lot of time talking to key experts and the innovation will drive rapid change.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Lovely. Thank you for that. I accept there is a range of partners who are involved here in the work that is going on, but can I look at a couple of examples of TfL’s role? It contributed to funding rapid charging points in the carpark that serves the Aquatic Centre and the Copper Box Arena. Yet in order to use these chargers, drivers have to pay parking charges and those parking charges are £45.

Will you ensure that in future any rapid charging points that TfL contributes to are fully accessible and not subject to these extortionate additional charges?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

What we have to do is to make sure we have something available to everyone. Some people will be using the facilities anyway and they will have a rapid charging point available for them as well as charging points. We have to make it accessible to everyone.

One of the things we are doing is making sure we can get the best deal from the private sector possible in relation to the work they need to do. You are right to highlight that we have to make sure it is accessible and that means affordable as well. It is not one size fits all. I would be disappointed if it was the case that all of our schemes are charging. They are not. Many of them are free at point of delivery. Some, by the way, are reserved for taxis, which I know you support.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Yes, quite right. Perhaps you might want to look at that example because that does feel extortionate.

There is also a real issue with the cost of electricity at some rapid charging points. Heathrow received a £165,000 grant from TfL to support the installation of rapid charges in the taxi feeder park. That is really important for tourists to London. Yet now that taxi feeder park is charging so much for electricity that it costs more for it to charge their electric taxis than to fill up with diesel.

What are you going to do to sort this out so that the chargers that you fund, TfL funds and the public funds are fully accessible and also charge a fair price for electricity?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

This is a really important point, which is that in our keenness to get the rapid charging points up and running, the deals done with the private sector need to be sustainable in the long term. We think the Government has a really useful role to play with its economies of scale and buying power and convening power. We are talking to the DfT and the Government about how they can help us in relation to getting a good deal.

However, you are right to remind me to make sure that the deals TfL do are good in the long term. For example, it is possible we do a good deal with a private sector that in the first three years or the first six years is great, but what happens after that initial setup of the rapid charging points? We will continue to pursue this and also make sure we can get the help of the Government to get better deals all round.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

I hope you could perhaps go and look at this issue at Heathrow because we need taxis to be electric there. Thank you very much.