photo by Alan Trotter (Flickr CC)

In not-so-olden times London used to be known as “the Big Smoke” due to all the coal fires that befouled its air and choked its inhabitants. Coal produced the famous London fog, which in reality wasn’t fog at all. A “Pea souper” was a particularly ghastly kind of yellowish smog that belched from the city’s chimneys.

Less metaphorical was the Great Smog of 1952, when a combination of cold weather, winds and pollutants created the worst air pollution in the history of the UK, causing as many as 12,000 deaths.

 

The Great Smog was soon followed by the Clean Air Act. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it?

Coal fires may be gone, but London’s vehicular traffic – the bane of the modern city – produces untold amounts of harmful pollutants, especially ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Britain leads Europe in nitrogen oxides, while London has the worst air quality in the UK.

Lately in the Big Smoke’s battle between smog and breathable air we’ve seen a road tax, a cycle-hire scheme and now the launch of a citywide project for plug-in electric cars.

From the Guardian:

The opening of the Source London scheme means there are now around 400 points in the city, a increase on the roughly 250 previously available to drivers. Ultimately, the plan is to have 1,300 points by 2013, or no more than one mile from every Londoner.

Electric car owners will pay an annual membership fee of £100 to use the charging points.

The UK’s Green Party has criticized London Mayor Boris Johnson for drastically scaling back previous plans for 7,500 points by 2013, eventually culminating 25,000 places to tank up on e-juice.

From BBC News

He has also failed to guarantee that the charging points will run on renewable energy, so the environmental gains are far less than they should be.

– Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly

Read more in the Guardian and on BBC News (with video).