London’s black cab drivers are ready to go green

London's taxi drivers are seemingly ready and willing to help tackle London's air quality crisis as a new survey reveals that 80% of them are interested in switching to new ultra-low emission vehicles for their work.

The survey of 1,189 cab drivers, carried out by the London Taxi Company (LTC), reveals a huge appetite for greener fleets, with the vast majority of those questioned were either ‘interested’ or ‘very interested’ in buying a zero-emission-capable taxi when they are rolled out next year.

With more than 25,000 licenced taxi drivers operating in London, an industry shift to low-cabron vehicles could prove crucial in curbing deadly levels of air pollution in the capital and bringing the UK back on track with its low-carbon transport targets. 

“LTC supports the Mayor’s [Sadiq Khan] pledge to make tackling air quality in London a top priority – and now we can see taxi drivers want this too,” said the firm’s chief executive Chris Gubbey. “It is down to us to work together with the relevant authorities to ensure the right infrastructure is in place.

“LTC has manufactured the black cab in the UK for 69 years, and is investing £300m in bringing a UK-built Zero Emissions Capable taxi to UK and international markets by 2018. We believe we can lead the charge in ensuring London’s air quality returns to safe and legal levels and believe that London can lead the world in zero-emissions urban transport.”

‘Next logical step’

The willingness of cab drivers to make the green switch is reflected in the attitudes of many large taxi firms across London. Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the licensed taxi driver’s association – representing over 11,000 London taxi drivers – said: “There’s a huge amount of interest in the new taxi amongst our members – the worst place to breathe in London’s polluted air is behind the wheel so our drivers know all too well the impact this is having.

“Cabbies would therefore welcome the opportunity to drive the new zero-emissions-capable taxi tomorrow, given the opportunity to do so and are committed to doing their bit to help improve air quality in the capital.

“As a key part of London’s transport infrastructure for more than 200 years, we have constantly adapted our vehicles and the service we provide to meet the changing needs of Londoners from ensuring that all taxis are 100% wheelchair-accessible to ensuring that all black cabs are equipped to take card payments from October this year. Given the scale of the air quality problem facing London, this ultra-low emissions taxi is the next logical step in our evolution.”

The Government is also supportive of the survey’s findings, pledging to aid the transition from combustion cabs to the new wave of low emission alternatives. Deputy Mayor for Transport Valerie Shawcross said: “We need to take every step we can to clean up London’s polluted air.

“It’s great to hear taxi drivers are ready to play their part, and the use of new zero-emission taxis will make a significant difference. We are committed to helping the industry thrive and will be working with TfL to ensure that we do everything we can to make sure this vital transition as quick and easy as possible.”

Green cab manifesto

With such a high level of interest and clean air commitment, the LTC is now looking forward to cooperating with local government to improve EV infrastructure across the city by introducing a minimum of 150 rapid charging stations by 2018 – extending that to at least 300 by 2020.

The survey comes just months after a combined mainfesto from the London taxi trade to the then-unannounced mayor in April which outlined commitments to a greener London by promising to fully integrate zero emission capable vehicles from January 2018. From that date on, all taxis presented for licensing will be zero-emission capable, the manifesto stated.

The development of the LTC’s zero-emission taxi has received support from Chinese automobile company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH), which donated $400m to help roll out the upcoming new generation cabs across the capital. A variety of other electric taxi solutions, such as the MetroCab and Nissan’s e-NV200, have been made available to purchase in the capital over the past few years.

Luke Nicholls & Alex Baldwin

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