Designing a Low Emission Neighbourhood: the Role of Car Clubs and Electric Vehicles

Designing a Low Emission Neighbourhood: the Role of Car Clubs and Electric Vehicles


Matt Croucher, WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff


These preparatory studies shaped the development of the masterplan for the Shoreditch Low Emission Zone, including a low emission car club network and on-street charging solutions that underpin them


London has some of the worst air pollution in Western Europe and the European Commission has begun proceedings against the UK government for not meeting the standards in terms of NO2 and NOx emissions. In response the Shoreditch area to the north of Central London (the City) has developed a Masterplan to transform the streets into a Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN).

The Low Emission Neighbourhood includes a range of measures to reduce emissions and improve the public realm. Promoting the use of low emission vehicles, and in particular low emission car clubs forms a key component of the approach, alongside walking, cycling, public transport, cycle freight and low emission deliveries and servicing, and managing and restricting the use of polluting vehicles.

Shoreditch contains a diverse range of land uses and businesses, generating vehicle trips to service the businesses situated within the City, such as design, print and couriers. The area is also a significant destination in its own right, with the expansion of skyscrapers north from the City and a thriving night time economy and vibrant arts scene. The area is home to the London College of Fashion, and has more recently become synonymous with digital technology industries, and home to the likes of Google and Amazon, which have led to it becoming known as ‘Tech City’.

Our attitudes and usage of cars in cities is evolving, owing to a combination of policy, socio-demographics, and new technologies. Shoreditch epitomises these progressive change, and this convergence of trends is leading to a reduction in the use of private cars in urban areas, and to an increasingly multi-modal combination of transportation, accessing transport on-demand that best fits the requirement of each trip.

One of the key mechanisms facilitating this shift away from car ownership to car usage is the growth of the car club sector. Car clubs offer members access to a shared vehicle on a pay-as-you-go basis, providing an alternative to private vehicle ownership. There are already over 5.3 million users of car clubs globally, and this figure is projected to rise to over 26m by 2020. London is in a leading position, with 165,000 members, representing 84% of the UK’s total membership, and making London Europe’s largest single market for car clubs based on membership.

Electric vehicles are in many ways a natural fit for car clubs – they further the emissions reductions delivered by car clubs through reduced car ownership, removing local emissions, whilst also serving to promote and normalise electric vehicles, and provide early demand to sustain a growing charging infrastructure.

There is a growing appetite for EV’s amongst the emerging car club sector, with TfL and the Car Club Coalition targeting 1 million members by 2025, comprised of 50% ultra-low emission vehicles. However the already challenging task of growing car clubs to meet these ambitious targets is complicated further by the additional demands of electric vehicles.

Key to meeting these demands is the provision of a scalable network of on-street charging points. WSP|PB have recently completed a series of pioneering studies for Transport for London (TfL) and London Boroughs into the technological options, challenges and opportunities for electric vehicle charging, including case studies which consider the options in a variety of streets and typographies across the capital.

A comprehensive study was also undertaken on behalf of TfL to understand the scope and appetite of all twelve current and prospective car club operators in London to collectively fulfil the aspirations for low emission vehicle car club growth. Further interviews were completed with London Boroughs to understand their plans and ambitions for low emission car clubs, and to contrast the findings from the two sets of stakeholders and understand their differing perspectives.

The findings of these studies went on to shape the development of the masterplan for the Shoreditch Low Emission Zone, providing a credible evidence base for low emission car club development in the area, including likely vehicle composition by car club type (i.e. Back-to-Base, Fixed One-way/Point-to-Point and Floating models), operational considerations and infrastructure requirements). Our related studies into on-street charging solutions then informed the electric vehicle charge point proposals that underpin the car clubs – translating these preparatory studies into a specific set of bold new design proposals, to delivery an exemplar neighbourhood for low emission travel within a rapidly transforming city fringe.


Association for European Transport