Whatever your opinion of Boris Johnson, he has, at the very least, highlighted the pressing need to tackle air pollution in cities and towns. London has benefited from his cycle-hire scheme, plus he’s behind the increase in hybrid buses used for public transport. He’s also promised that by 2018, all taxis will be hybrid. So what’s so great about hybrid?
It’s no secret that pollution levels in London are horrendous, so why hasn’t the Clean Air Act 1993 made much impact? Part of the problem is that transport systems were encouraged to switch to diesel engines in a bid to cut greenhouse gases. Diesel engines had become quieter and supposedly more efficient. But no one seemed to take notice of the air pollutants coming from diesel fuel that are highly toxic to health, and that pose a threat at least equal to CO2. These invisible particles are thought to be inhaled and absorbed by our bodies, resulting in more premature deaths, heart and lung problems. Pretty scary stuff. So what’s the alternative?
Having all London’s public transport systems running on petrol/electricity hybrids would have many benefits over diesel engines. Let’s take a look at hybrid taxis, from the point of view of operators, drivers, passengers and the environment.
The first thing mentioned by operators is how economical they are to run. Hybrid hackneys can get up to 75mpg, with other types achieving around 99mpg, which is mightily impressive for such a large vehicle. And there’s no road tax to pay, which is bonus number two.
Taxi passengers and drivers remark at how quiet and smooth the ride is; both definite advantages to driving around London. Electric motors are generally more efficient at lower speeds, so no petrol is used then, unless the battery charge is low. Conversely when cruising, it’s the petrol engine that gets to work.
Although petrol hybrid engines emit the same pollutants as a non-hybrid engine, because of the increased efficiency, they need to burn less to go further. Hybrid cars are thought to produce 80% less harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases than conventional cars. This translates to less airborne particles and a cleaner environment.
Whilst operating economy is probably at the forefront of most taxi firms, have one or a fleet of eco-responsible vehicles should make an impression on potential clients and investors. It shows you’re thinking of the bigger picture and aren’t afraid to lead the way.
Whatever your views on hybrids and all-electric vehicles, it’s apparent they are the way forward.