State-of the-art electric taxis that London’s transport authorities hope will replace diesel black cabs have yet to enter service on the streets of the capital – because the meter does not work.
Only one zero-emission taxi has so far been licensed in the capital with none yet to carry a paying passenger – two weeks after rules came into force banning any other new black cabs.
From the start of 2018 London has only permitted zero-emission capable vehicles to join its fleet of 23,000 cabs The only approved model so far is the London Electric Vehicle Company’s TX eCity.
However, no electric TXs are yet in commercial operation, despite lavish praise for the new taxi from test drivers and great hopes invested in its potential to reduce air pollution.
Several hundred of the British-built vehicles have been ordered, according to the Coventry-based, Chinese-owned manufacturer.
However, the taxis will not be delivered to drivers for several weeks while the meter glitch is resolved with LEVC’s supplier.
The electric vehicle gives out a regular pulse to tell how far it has travelled. A spokesman said: “The signal from the vehicles and the meters are not lining up and we are working on a solution to fix that issue. We’re working to get an appropriate converter to get the vehicles licensed by [Transport for London] and over to customers.”
Take-up of the TX eCity has proved slow. Drivers have called on the government and TfL to make it more attractive to buy the taxi, which costs around £10,000 more than diesel models, although running costs are substantially lower.
Concerns over sufficient charging points, as well as a tax change that means an extra £1,550 excise duty is paid by early adopters, are seen as a deterrent.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the TX is “a fantastic vehicle. It is state of the art. We’d have gone from a 1950s Ford Anglia to a Tesla overnight with this. And we could be leading the charge in persuading the rest of London to be electric, clean and green.”
However, he added: “At the moment people are very hesitant. We’ve got to pay £12k more for a vehicle that we don’t know the reliability or durability of, at a time when the market is being squeezed by that company [Uber].”
The taxi costs £55,600, after a £7,500 electric vehicle grant, or can be leased for five years at £177 a week, around £10 more than diesel models – although LEVC says that drivers would save up to £100 per week on fuel.
A luxury car tax introduced in 2017 means buyers face a £310 annual increase in road tax for five years. Although the chancellor has since granted taxis an exemption, it will only take effect for purchases made from April 2019.
McNamara added: “The lack of charging infrastructure is a concern. There are still nowhere near the number of rapid charge points that we need in central London.”
The back-up of a petrol engine extends the taxi’s range to 377 miles, more than diesel, but drivers may not be able to complete a shift and return journey home on the battery’s 80 mile range without a recharge. Only 46 rapid charge points exist in the capital, the majority in outer zones. TfL has pledged 300 rapid charging points will be in operation by the end of 2020, many dedicated to taxi, while London boroughs have been given £4.5 million to double the 2,000 slow charging points on residential streets.
Many councils have been reluctant to install chargepoints, which take up valuable parking spaces and can be regarded as unsightly. Transport ministers today urged councils around the UK to do more, after it emerged that millions in government grants had been unclaimed and only five councils had installed chargers under the national funding scheme.
Despite teething problems, TfL hopes that 9,000 London cabs will be zero-emission by 2020. The TX completely eliminates NOx emissions, and even when running its petrol back-up cuts CO2 emissions to an eighth of those from the latest diesel taxi. For London’s residents, passengers and cab drivers, the taxi can’t come soon enough.
It even promises the social revolution of happier taxi drivers. John Dowd, a London cabbie for 10 years, who has been roadtesting the TX for LEVC since September, said he returns home a more chilled-out person now: “You don’t have the drone of engine all day. It’s much less stressful to drive, a much nicer vehicle and it’s green – a different world.”
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