how electric vehicles have the power to disrupt traditional transport

In my first two articles I discussed the development of electric and connected vehicles, how electric vehicles (EVs) are now, not just practical, but also desirable; and how the perceived and real issues related to their use have been or are likely to be addressed.

We have established the reasoning behind EVs and their best uses.

To take this one step further the following article sets out my beliefs on how EVs can be used tactically to disrupt traditional modes of transport in Urban environments.


Research by Inrix in 2014 suggests that the cost of congestion will rise at an annual rate of 71% in London to approximately £9.3bn by 2030, equivalent to the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Alistairs InfographicSource: INRIX (

This has the resulting effect of placing mobility, especially in Urban areas, at the very heart of our economy. It is driving a global trend towards a more efficient organisation of transport and energy, environment and society’s needs. The Smart City.

In addition, the cost to our health is being exposed. Due to the way the majority of us travel, especially in our urban environments, we are poisoning ourselves. Harmful CO2, NOx and particulate matter, mainly from car exhaust fumes, is contributing to over 4,300 official deaths (up to 7,500 deaths are quoted by some independent sources) each year in London alone and is rising. In 2013, London drivers spent 250 hours idling in traffic and this is set to increase to 299 hours in 2030, equivalent to 40 working days a year.

Putting a price on emissions

The 1997 Kyoto Protocols was an extension to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992 and set out a provision for countries to trade their greenhouse gas emissions (mainly CO2). This meant that countries that used more than their CO2 quota were able to purchase additional units from under producing countries. As a result carbon emissions as a commodity can be bought and sold freely on the markets. However, as stated in Deutsche Bank’s report (2009), many believe carbon markets are not working.

Thankfully, other measures are being introduced mainly through taxation and the creation of low emissions zones such as London’s Congestion Charge Zone and the proposed new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

Many companies are also now putting their own price on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This is providing the environment with a real impact in decision making and a company’s profit and loss. In 2012, Microsoft introduced a carbon fee to help it meet its commitment of becoming carbon neutral. By including the cost of carbon into its decision making, Microsoft believes it is saving more than $10 million per year.

Changing attitudes to Business Travel


When I started working, the company car was one of the most prized benefits a company could bestow on an employee. It provided a real incentive to reach those management levels so that you could sell your old second-hand hatchback and climb into a brand new saloon!

But the world is changing;

  • Personal finance deals make car leasing almost as competitive for the individual as for the large commercial fleets
  • Heavy taxation to steer consumer behaviour away from heavy polluting cars makes most company cars expensive from a personal tax perspective
  • Congestion and lack of parking is making driving the car to work less attractive
  • Real estate prices mean that companies would rather pay for productive office space rather than large car parks
  • Work force is becoming used to multi-modal travel, making them car users rather than car owners.

So now, more than ever this poses the question about how companies offer their employees benefits. Should a company in London now continue to offer a company car to staff? Do their staff even want a car or are they happy to take the cash in lieu instead?

If company cars no longer provide the employee with the benefit or incentive they were originally designed to do, is it time for a change. As an alternative, could mobility or travel vouchers be exchanged for all kinds of travel options.

Such a scheme could take guidance from existing schemes such as childcare vouchers or gym / sport membership schemes. Not only could such a mobility voucher be more relevant today but also the Government could more effectively promote green travel through taxation. As more recent history has shown with the promotion of diesel cars over petrol due to their lower C02 specifications and consequentially their lower Benefit in Kind calculation, a single point of reference can lead to the wrong outcome.

A mobility voucher scheme could offer the variety people demand with better tax treatment the more environmentally or economically beneficial the mode chosen. People could still have the choice to take cash at the marginal tax rate if they wished.

However there would be no one size fits all approach but the range of transport options now available offers many more possibilities than just a company car.

Looking to the future

In this predicted world of multi-modal transport, the switch from one method to the next needs to be seamless. This should be both in terms of physical connections and also transactional. I would like to take our recent partnership with First Great Western as an example. It is now possible for passengers on a First Great Western train to pre-book an eConnect car which will be waiting at the designated parking bays next to the platform at Paddington to take them the last few miles of their journey. This can all be done via the First Great Western website. The next stage would be to bundle the price into a single ticket and we are working on that.

Such transport integration has been an aspiration since Le Corbusier promoted his modern designs for a post-war Europe. However, it is only now that the technology and connectivity truly exists to make this happen, provided that companies can work together to make the collaborations required work .

As each node is connected so the network will continue to grow and it will not be long before you can enter a postcode to postcode journey on a web platform that will provide you with a choice based on your chosen priorities in terms of time, cost and environmental impact. It may even be able to work out if you have enough mobility vouchers and what would be the impact on your annual tax return.


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