Tuesday, July 30, 2012. The Green Piece Column.
As the London Olympics get underway we take a look at how green the transport arrangements are for the Games. It isn’t just BMW, the Official Automotive Partner for the Games, which is helping to ensure that transport arrangements go their way towards making this the greenest Olympics ever. There is also hydrogen fuelled taxis and scooters, a fleet of Boris bikes, a cable car system linking key Olympic venues and the ever reliable-ish London Underground to keep people moving in a more sustainable way than sitting in your own car in insanely congested traffic.
To ease congestion (or maybe just to push everyone who is trying to go about their daily working lives off the road) London has special Games Lanes for athletes, VIPs emergency vehicles and Games officials, to make it easier for them to travel around the Capital. Of course, many resident businesses are understandable upset by the lanes especially those who make a living from driving around the city. Cab drivers, intent on protesting about their ban from the lanes, were prevented by a legal injunction from making a third demonstration last week on the eve of the Opening Ceremony. As a key part of London’s transport network, they believe their ban from the lanes is unfair. In protest they blockaded Tower Bridge on Monday, July 23rd, with one driver even jumping from it to demonstrate his disgruntlement, two days before the lane rules came into force.
Where are the hydrogen buses?
So not everyone is happy with the arrangements for the Games. One arrangement that caught our eye was the hydrogen bus fleet. Five such vehicles, being operated by First Group on behalf of Transport for London, had been running around the capital, along the South Bank, in advance of the Games.
But the buses won’t operate during the Games as there will be no delivers of hydrogen during these two weeks as stipulated in the planning permission for the refuelling station, located in East London. There are some silly conspiracy theories around the web suggesting that this is because stored hydrogen is a health and safety concern and that terrorists could use it to cause an explosion. That makes no sense as there is a hydrogen refuelling station at Heathrow Airport, installed for the five hydrogen taxis which will be transporting VIPs around London during the Games period. Though we can only speculate, it sounds like the hydrogen buses have been grounded until September, mainly because delivering hydrogen to the East End has been deemed a low priority, in an area likely to be highly congested.
BMW’s hybrids and electric cars
You may have noticed that we’ve been running a poll to assess whether you think that BMW’s 8 per cent EV and hybrid fleet is green enough (you can still vote on the left-hand side of the web page).
Supplying a fleet of more than 4,000 vehicles to support the Games, electric and hybrid models make just 320 vehicles; broken down to 40 electric Minis, 160 ActiveE 1-Series electric car and 120 ActiveHybrid 5 models. BMW will also be using its Games sponsorship to publicise the launch of its new i sub-brand; especially designed for plug-in models. Both the i3 fully electric supermini, expected to launch in 2014 and the i8 plug-inn hybrid sports car, expected to arrive in 2013, will be on display in the Olympic Park.
We have to admit that the 116g/km CO2 average is pretty impressive considering that BMW doesn’t make particularly small cars, and with an exception of a handful of Minis in this fleet, the rest are C-segment vehicles.
Could the London Games have been greener?
There is no doubt that this Olympics have made a bold statement about sustainability, but could we have done more? Undoubtedly, there is room for improvement but we’ve definitely set a respectable bar.
There has been criticism of some of the Games key sponsors such as McDonald’s, BP and EDF over their respect of environmental issues, but the Games organisers themselves have made sustainability a key part of the events.
According to Games’ partners WWF and BioRegional, the London Olympics have achieved their key target; they are the Greenest Gamers ever. Achieving this should be something we’re all proud of. London’s commitment to sustainability was a key reason why we won the bid in the first place. You can read WWF and BioRegional’s report on the sustainability of the Games here.
But elsewhere we’ve been let down. The Games will not meet its target for 20 per cent of energy from renewables, because health and safety concerns prevented the installation a huge two-megawatt wind turbine. As a result, it is expected that the Games will only achieve an 11 per cent target.
We’d also have liked to have seen more electric cars involved in the Games too. But nonetheless, transport considerations have been well catered for the ordinary spectators. Ticket holders are automatically given a one-day travelcard to enable them to use trains and buses to get to their venue.
There has also been a successful Active Travel plan to encourage walking and cycling with 7,000 cycle bays in the Olympic Park. There is very little parking around venues so unless you are an official, driving to an event is near impossible. In a huge city like London that’s as it should be.
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.
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