New Mayor Boris brings London EVs back from the brink

4 May 2008

Boris on the TubeNo doubt champagne corks will have popped among makers of electric cars late last week, as Boris Johnson was confirmed as the new London Mayor. One of the primary markets for their products, the UK’s capital, had just come back from the dead.

To recap, from October this year, electric cars were due to lose their special status as vehicles exempt from the London Congestion Charge. While they were to continue to slip into the zone without paying the £8 per day toll, so too would any small car falling into road-tax band A or B.

£8 per day can quickly mount up in thousands, so exemption is a real financial plus – and spreading that benefit out into the ranks of conventional superminis would have spelled death for the electric car in the capital. Faced with an equal congestion-charge benefit from choosing a G-Wiz or, say, a Toyota Aygo, most punters would not be calling GoinGreen to snap up a Wiz.

But Boris has pledged to halt the planned change, which notoriously would also have seen owners of the largest cars paying £25 to enter the zone. In his mayoral manifesto on transport [PDF], Johnson pledged, “I will not allow smaller cars into the Congestion Charge zone for free, or introduce Ken Livingstone’s £25 charge on large family cars.”

While outgoing Mayor Ken Livingstone was not hostile to the electric runabout, he did nothing to promote it. He reportedly said that his planned £25 charge on the most polluting cars would not have been acceptable to the public without the freebie for smaller cars, and the damage to the electric car startups was not an issue.

Boris, on the other hand, is actually a G-Wiz fan. A year ago, in his Telegraph column, Boris wrote:

“I have just overtaken two girls in the cleanest, greenest, sweetest four-wheeled self-propelled invention to hit the London streets since the first horseless carriage arrived at the end of the 19th century.

This machine is so simple and yet so revolutionary that it restores one's faith in scientific progress. Not since the windmills sprouted on the roofs of Notting Hill has there been a gizmo so deliriously trendy and yet so gentle to the upper air.

I am talking about the G-Wiz electric car. In case you have yet to spot one of these mobile rabbit hutches, they are manufactured in India out of plastic and rubber bands, and since they are powered by a battery they emit no more CO2 than a small dandelion. They are at once as green, and as hopeful for the future of capitalism, as a dollar bill.”

Plus, Boris has pledged to allow motorcycles to use bus lanes in London. We wonder if he will put a broad smile on the faces of EV makers and users alike by extending the same huge benefit to electric cars.

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