London taxis gear up for electric switch

London taxis gear up for electric switch
As many as 75 high-speed roadside charge points are to appear across London this year, as taxis in the capital approach their deadline for going electric.

Transport for London (TfL) and local authorities have until January to bring a 24,000-stong fleet in compliance with new law which requires cabs to be able to drive using electric power only.

The major conversion is seen as a critical early step in cleaning up the capital’s air and encouraging more private vehicle owners to consider battery power.

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The new black cabs – which run on electric batteries – are currently being made near Coventry and go on sale later this year. Designed by the London Taxi Company (LTC), they have a small petrol engine which prolongs their range before reaching a charge point.

Taxi drivers will receive £7,500 towards the cost of an electric model when trading in a diesel cab – with an additional £5,000 available for cars over 10 years old.

The new charge points – 50KW super-chargers capable of topping up 80% of battery life inside 30 minutes – will come as part of an £18 million government investment, with around 300 expected by 2020.

Currently, London’s only high-speed roadside charging point sits outside St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch – cutting a lonely figure in a city which on some days sees more pollution than Beijing.

Recently the government received a mixed reception for its draft air quality proposals, which unexpectedly failed to include concrete plans for a widespread diesel vehicle scrappage scheme.

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The new LTC electric taxis come with a range of under 100 miles before a charge is required or the petrol engine steps in.

The way the manufacturer sees them working is by drivers heading into town using their petrol engines before switching to electric power during their day of drop-offs. They would then recharge at home in the evening.

However, quick and handy inner city charging spots will still be needed, as almost all drivers will have to recharge at least once in their working day.

The chief executive of ChargePoint, Pasquale Romano, says he has been encouraged by the speed at which motorists switch to electric vehicles once charging stations are installed.

He said: “It’s a question of chicken and egg, but when you get one egg a lot of chickens tend to turn up.”

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