London's Black Cabs Catalyst For Green Upgrade

LONDON, United Kingdom, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - London's black taxi cabs are being fitted with pollution cutting catalytic converters in a trial that could see all 20,000 of the famous vehicles going green.

Incorporated into the exhaust system of a vehicle, a catalytic converter reduces the amount of pollutants emitted in exhaust gases.

taxis

Almost 20,000 black cabs ply London's congested streets. (Photo by Ian Britton, courtesy http://freefoto.com)
When exhaust gases pass through the catalytic converter, its small beads coated with metals, such as palladium and platinum, encourage chemical reactions that change pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and certain hydrocarbons, into less harmful carbon dioxide and water.

All new cars sold in the United States have been equipped with catalytic converters since the early 1980s to meet ever stringent emissions standards.

In the UK, only those black cabs built since 1997 feature catalytic converters as standard. That leaves a significant number of cabs still spewing the particulate matter which can trigger the symptoms of asthma, and can aggravate pre-existing lung and heart diseases.

Under the trial announced by the Central London Partnership (CLP), Tuesday, a dozen of London's black cabs will be fitted with catalytic converters. The devices are expected to reduce harmful emissions by 25 percent.

The Central London Partnership brings together key private and public sector organizations operating in, or responsible for, central London. These include local authorities and public sector service providers with a range of responsibilities.

The group aims to make London a better place in which to live, work, invest and visit. Among its priorities are making London an easier place to move around in and improving the environment.

London's well documented air pollution problems are closely linked to its traffic congestion. At the start of the 21st Century, traffic crawls around central London at an average speed of less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) an hour - little faster than horse and cart traffic at the turn of the 20th century.

Four million people work in Greater London and one million work in central London. About one in seven commuters travelling into central London comes by car, which means that during rush hour, more than 50,000 vehicles enter central London per hour.

traffic

London's rush hour usually begins about 6 a.m and generally finishes 16 hours later. (Photo courtesy Mayor of London's Office)
Once in the city center, traffic typically spends 50 percent of its time at a standstill.

Among the most significant proposals to relieve London's gridlock and alleviate the pollution that accompanies stop-go driving, is congestion charging.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has proposed a 5 (US$7.34) daily charge for motorists entering London, which would generate 200 million (US$294 million) in revenue per year to be spent on transport improvements.

At the launch of yesterday's initiative, Environment and Transport Minister responsible for road and vehicle safety, Lord Whitty said London's black cabs are a vital public transport service.

"Whilst the typical London taxi is not especially dirty - and indeed is generally well maintained - there are around 20,000 black cabs operating in our capital," said Lord Whitty.

Whitty

Environment and Transport Minister responsible for road and vehicle safety, Lord Whitty. (Photo courtesy Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions)
"So any measure that can cut pollution from taxis can potentially make a real difference to air quality in our capital city, making it a better place in which to work, live and grow up."

CLP's initiative is being funded by Energy Saving Trust's Clean Up program, which is sponsored by Lord Whitty's ministry, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Clean Up aims to reduce pollution from vehicles such as buses and taxis in urban areas by providing grants towards the costs of fitting them with emissions reduction equipment or converting them to run on alternative fuels.

Over the next few months, CLP's pilot fleet of taxis will test whether catalysts can consistently reduce particulate emissions by the expected amount of 25 percent. If the pilot is successful, it will be extended to fit more black cabs in London and other UK cities.