Tuc tucs fleets to hit British streets

Marketed as the green way to get about town, a fleet of gas-powered tuc tucs took to the streets of Brighton this week, with more set to follow in other British cities.

An ubiquitous feature of many Far Eastern cities, this is the first time the motorised rickshaws will be seen plying their trade outside of Asia, according to the company which will be operating them, TucTuc Ltd.

The 12 vehicles – each with a unique paint job from a patriotic Union Jack to a Burberry-bedecked ‘Chavrolet’ – run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and the operators will be opening their filling station, situated in Brighton Marina, to the public.

While still a fossil fuel, burning CNG emits less pollutants than a traditional petrol engine.

Dominic Ponniah, executive director of TucTuc Ltd told edie: “The emissions are really low. There is no lead output, an 80% reduction in emissions of carbon monoxide and CO2 is down 40%.

“They are also cheaper and more efficient to run.”

While still a long way from a new form of zero-emissions public transport, the tuc tucs are a step in the right direction.

Mr Ponniah acknowledged there was still room to bring down pollutants, by using electric engines and running his fleet on electricity from renewable sources.

“We import the vehicles from India and the electric-powered ones are not commercially available yet,” he said.

“They do exist, but are in the development stage and as we are running a public transport service we need to know our vehicles are reliable.

“We want to convert our fleet to electric at some point but need to wait until there is something more than a prototype and the CNG vehicles are tried and tested.”

Mr Ponniah is also hopeful that, due to their nimbleness, small size and ability to squeeze through snarled up traffic, they will help ease congestion and spend less time idling then a traditional cab might.

Asked how they catered for a niche not already met by the zero-emission pedal-powered rickshaws that can be found in pockets around the country such as London’s Covent Garden, Mr Ponniah said: “These vehicles have an engine so they can go a much further distance much quicker. The cycle rickshaws are a bit of fun but they are not a serious alternative to buses and taxis.

“The tuc tucs offer another option for the environmentally conscious.”

The service will be run on a bus licence and tuc tucs will have to be hailed at pre-arranged stops. Their route will run along Brighton sea front, between the marina in the east to Hove town centre in the west. They will also take passengers to and from the central station.

TucTuc Ltd already has a licence to operate in London and hopes to bring the capital its own fleet of the mini minicabs next May.

The plan is to introduce tuc tucs to Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester the following year then turn to the capitals of continental Europe such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Madrid.

“We want to encourage everyone to go green,” said Mr Ponniah.

“The new tuc tuc service supports local government transport and sustainability strategies to make Brighton & Hove a vibrant, healthy and people-friendly city in which to travel.

“We’re convinced the vehicles will also provide a fun factor for getting around the city, which will appeal to visitors and local alike.”

Sam Bond

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