Uber is expanding its electric car plans in London to tackle air pollution, with more Nissan Leafs and a network of chargers

Lynsey Barber
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More Nissan Leaf Uber's will hit the road (Source: Uber)

Uber is expanding its fleet of electric vehicles in London in a bid to tackle air pollution in the capital.

Another 100 Nissan Leafs will join the 50 already on the road since last summer, while the transport startup will create a network of charging points across the city.

Initial analysis of the electric car trial found that more than 35,000 rides were taken using the eco-friendly cars. Compared with the familiar Toyota Prius hybrid used by many drivers, it saved more than half a metric tonne of nitrogen oxide and 22 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The study by the Energy Saving Trust found that a lack of rapid charging in London was holding back drivers.

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“Our vision is for mass adoption of fully electric cars as private hire vehicles but there are some really big challenges we need to overcome," said Uber UK regional manager Jo Bertram.

"Charging cars can be costly for drivers and there’s a serious lack of rapid charging points in central London."

Energy saving Trust group director of transport, Andrew Benfield, said: The study shows that, in the main, electric vehicles are popular with both drivers and passengers."

“We also found that drivers want to see more rapid-charging options in London, as well as residential charging infrastructure to be able to re-charge overnight at or near home – the most convenient and cost-effective way of running an electric vehicle," he said, adding that there is potential for mincabs in the capital to become electric to help improve air quality.

Critics of the company have cited the increasing number of Uber drivers on the city's roads as a contributor to rising pollution in the capital.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to tackle the problem. He has promised millions of pounds to tackle air quality in the capital and will soon release a transport strategy which is expected to outline further action.

Data from Transport for London shows diesel cars account for 11 per cent of London’s emission problem, while taxis and petrol cars contribute seven per cent and three per cent respectively. But it's buses and heavy lorries which contribute the most combined - 20 per cent.

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Black cabs running on diesel will start to be phased out from 2018 and from 2020 all minicabs must be low emissions. City of London authorities have called on the mayor to ban diesel private hire vehicles (PHVs) such as Uber and Addison Lee, from the capital's streets.

The billion dollar valued company, which has recently come under pressure on several fronts, is also planning to expand its food delivery business UberEats to 40 more towns and cities across the UK by the end of the year as it takes on UK startup Deliveroo and fellow challenger Amazon Restaurants.

Uber has been hit by a string of high-profile troubles in recent weeks. Boss Travis Kalanick will hire an operating chief to keep the business in line after claims of workplace sexual harassment and a toxic culture. It is also facing a lawsuit from Google over claims that a startup it acquired, Otto, stole trade secrets and infringed patents.

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