Published October 31, 2019

Taking the taxi down electric avenue

While lorries and buses might be talked about most in terms of urban air quality, it can be taxis and private-hire cars that are having the worst impact on pollution hotspots in towns and cities around the UK.

Taxis and hire cars feature prominently near local landmarks such as train stations, as well as contributing to health concerns around schoolshospitals and high streets, where congestion is common. A tendency to keep the engine running, while waiting for a fare, only makes things worse — with fines for idling possible.

Old and dirty
Ageing models of petrol and diesel car are obviously a big part of the problem, with pressure to cut carbon and pollution coming from the public and City Hall, alike. In London, for instance, some iconic black cabs are up to 30 times as toxic as private cars.

Back in 2017, though, electric black cabs made their debut, with 500 in operation less than 12 months later. Around the same time, Uber unveiled its Clean Air Plan.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Mayor of London has announced a funding boost of an extra £24M. Congestion charging, combined with a nationwide roll-out of Clean Air Zones, is undoubtedly also driving the transition towards electric vehicles (EVs). Progress, however, remains slow.

Cabs in context
In fairness, EV uptake amongst taxis should be seen in a broader automotive market context. Overall, there is still a long way to go down the road to clean and green, despite UK Government targets for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040.

Although sales of battery electric vehicles shot up 377% in August to hit a record high, that still amounts to only 3.4% of the total market. The cars are not the only issue, however, as a lack of infrastructure is still a major obstacle to mainstream adoption.

White Paper released last year suggested the shortfall in car charging points by 2020 could be as high as 83%, with the finger pointed recently at local councils.

Grants and guarantees
To incentivise early-adopters, though, both financial assistance and maintenance-free guarantees are on offer to UK individuals looking to start their EV journey, including self-employed drivers.

Those wanting to purchase an EV home charging post through E.ON, for instance, are eligible for a grant of up to £500 from the government Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV), with packages for both fully electric and hybrid cars.

This carrot could save up to 75% of the total cost, including installation, so shortening payback dramatically. Three-year product and workmanship warranties also help de-risk the initial investment and provide peace of mind.

For UK businesses looking to lead the way, including taxi firms running fleets, up to £10,000 is available in grant funding from OLEV for workplace charging. Commercial customers, like consumers, also benefit from the E.ON Drive app.

With infrastructure critical for viability, becoming part of one of the largest EV charging networks can help futureproof the business case — taking taxis down electric avenue.

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