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Mayor Johnson

Electric dreams

I am not sure what to make of reports in Today’s Independent and Evening Standard that London Mayor Boris Johnson is seeking to emulate Paris Mayor, Betrand Delanoe’s, “Autolib” electric car scheme.

For one thing burning fossil fuels, losing half if it turning the energy into electricity, losing half of it in transmission losses, losing half of it charging a battery and losing half of it converting it into motion in a motor is a really crap way of propelling a car compared to the internal combustion engine.

For another I have to be suspicious of a scheme from a French Socialist Party mayor that involves the state owning and running a fleet of cars.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against a fleet of cars available for public use, just wary of their being publicly owned. I am really impressed with car sharing schemes, and if, big if, electric cars make sense I would like to see them owned and run by car sharing experts, not TfL.

More generally I would like to see us explore the whole idea of public cars. Black cabs, minicabs, car hire, car sharing and some version of Autolib are all examples of public cars. Cars used by anyone. Why is it only black cabs can use bus lanes? Are there other concessions we should give public cars to encourage more people to give up their own cars? Why charge VAT on public cars? Aren’t they just another form of public transport? Streetcar claim to be London’s largest car sharing operator and further claim that each of their cars takes 6 private cars off the road.

2 replies on “Electric dreams”

Not sure of the full details of the Autolib scheme, but if it’s at all like the Velib scheme, the cars wouldn’t be publicly owned. In the Velib scheme, the bikes are paid for by advertising company JC Decaux in return for the rights to put posters up in Paris and earn the revenue from them, which seems a sensible system to me. Street furniture in many cities in the UK is already provided by exactly the same model. Public gets the benefit without having to pay the capital outlay.

Geoff,

I hope you are right. Thanks for the reminder about JC Decaux’s role, here in London too with bus stop shelters.

The Independent article referred to publicly-owned cars. I am pretty sure that the cars, and probably the infrastructure too, should be owned and run by entrepreneurs not Transport for London. Sure the Mayor has a role as enthusiastic booster and enabler.

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