London’s iconic Black Taxi Cabs are known around the world for their timeless design, super-tight turning circle and throbbing diesel engines. But while the famous black Hackney Carriage are as famous as London’s telephone boxes, Buckingham Palace and double-decker buses, come January 1, 2018, all new black cabs licensed for hire within the greater London area will need to be plug-in hybrids, electric, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles capable of driving a minimum of 40 miles every day in zero emission mode.
The mandate, part of a new set of wide-sweeping measures from the Mayor of London and his administration designed to cut air pollution, will help take hundreds of dirty, smelly taxi cabs off London’s busy streets.
But in order to make the switch from diesel to plug-in hybrid, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association of London is calling on the Mayor of London to invest in a network of 500 new rapid charging stations across the greater London area which will be exclusively reserved for licenced black cab use.
The stations, it says, must offer at least an 80 percent charge within a 30-40 minute window at “modest or no cost to drivers.”
It’s part of an eight-point ‘total package’ which the LTDA says London Mayor Boris Johnson needs to implement in order to make London the first city in the world to ban non zero-emission cable taxis.
As Air Quality News reported back in February, LTDA general secretary Steve McNamara welcomes the advent of zero emission and low-emission taxi cabs. But without provision for charging, he warned, Taxi drivers wouldn’t be able to operate the new vehicles economically.
“London taxi drivers want to be able to purchase and drive clean, modern taxis,” he said. “With the right incentives and by working with the trade Boris [Johnson] has the opportunity to ensure that London is the first city in the world to have a taxi fleet comprised exclusively of zero emission vehicles.”
The new target date by which the zero emission targets must be adhered to applies both to taxi cabs — which people can hail on the street — and to private-hire minicabs — which must be pre-booked.
In addition to pushing for the Greater London Assembly to fund and install some 500 new rapid charging stations designed exclusively for taxi and minicab use, the LTDA — which represents 10,000 of the 24,000 licensed cabbies in London — wants the London Mayor to provide a £150 million fund towards helping cabbies pay for the first 15,000 plug-in taxis, which would run concurrently alongside existing commercial incentives offered by the British Government towards the purchase of a plug-in vehicle.
While some of the eight requirements are aimed at encouraging their fellow drivers to make the switch to a plug-in vehicle and operate it at the lowest-possible cost to them, some of LTDA’s demands focus on extending the life of existing taxi cabs.
One involves scraping an existing age limit for taxi cabs which prevents vehicles over the age of 15 from being official licensed cabs, simultaneously scrapping plans to reduce that age limit to vehicles 10-years or older.
Another proposes changing the way taxi cabs are taxed, basing their vehicle excise duty on the total sum of ‘real world’ tailpipe emissions of particulate matter, PM 2.5, NO2, and CO2.
At the moment, a handful of zero emission and plug-in hybrid taxis are being tested in the greater London area, with several new minicab firms even focusing exclusively on zero-emission electric service thanks to fleets of Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF minicabs.
At the moment, those vehicles have to share charging provision with public vehicles when away from their base of operation. At charging stations in and around Heathrow Airport in London and along the major arterial roads into the centre of town, it’s not uncommon to see a commercially-operated private-hire vehicle holding up private car owners while they get enough free electricity for their next job.
There’s no word yet if the Greater London Assembly will meet the LTDA’s request, but given it could help both taxi drivers and private car owners, we’re hoping it does.
Naturally, we’ll bring you more information as we have it.
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