Roadblock for rise of electric taxis in London with slow progress on rapid charge point installation

Rebecca Smith
All newly licensed taxis in London have to be zero emission capable from January
All newly licensed taxis in London have to be zero emission capable from January (Source: Getty)

London's mayor has said that targets to improve the city's infrastructure for electric vehicles are likely to be missed, ahead of upcoming changes that will mean all new taxis in the capital have to be zero emissions capable.

New licensing requirements come into force from 1 January 2018 to reduce emissions from the taxi fleet by phasing out diesel vehicles and increasing the number of zero emissions capable taxis in London, which the mayor said should help tackle air pollution problems in the capital.

Read more: Revealed: The first in-depth look at London's new electric black cab

But during the Mayor's Question Time session this week, Sadiq Khan admitted that a previous target to roll out 75 rapid charging points by the end of the year, looks unlikely to be reached until 2018.

Khan said that at present, the capital has just 29 of the points, with plans for a further 15 by the end of November.

"The rate of delivery is expected to rise dramatically, with over 130 locations currently being worked on," Khan said. "New rapid charging points will form part of an integrated network with the best possible experience, including pay as you go, customer call centres, and online data on locations and availability."

He added that Transport for London (TfL) is "prioritising the delivery to ensure there is sufficient coverage to meet demand from taxi drivers as they transition to zero emission capable vehicles from the start of next year".

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, who asked the mayor for an update on the progress, called the news "depresssing", and said plans to reach 300 rapid charging points by 2020 were "far too timid".

"If we expect companies with large fleets of cars and vans to go electric they need the absolute certainty that there will always be easy access to rapid charging points in every part of London," she said.

The mayor needs to do some basic maths. Even when used back to back, a rapid charging point can only charge 48 vehicles every 24 hours.

With 110,000 taxis and private hire vehicles on London's roads, not to mention thousands of vans, a network of 300 rapid charging points will never be sufficient to support these vehicles running on electricity.

Pidgeon added that the mayor should "raise his sights if he truly wants to tackle air pollution and ensure London leads the way in the adoption of electric vehicles", and work alongside garages and private developers to cultivate a comprehensive network of rapid charging points.

The London Taxi Company, which has changed its name to the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), has been testing its new crop of electric black cabs for the capital, with the cars set to be delivered to customers and made available to fare paying passengers by the end of the year.

There has been much discussion over potential hindrances to the take-up of electric vehicles, with range anxiety often cited - concern that the vehicle has insufficient range to get to its destination.

The LEVC echoed Pidgeon's comments and said that drivers needed visible signs of progress on electric vehicle infrastructure in the capital.

A spokesperson for LEVC said: "TfL have pledged to deliver 75 taxi dedicated rapid charge points by the end of this year which is a start. However, we now need to see these charge points delivered and communicated to drivers without further delay."

The mayor acknowledged on Thursday that rapid charge points, which can charge vehicles in 30 minutes, were predominantly needed by high mileage fleets, like taxis, private hire and freight vehicles, "who need to charge quickly with minimal downtime during work hours".

Khan said work on the rapid charging network "is testament to the vision we have set for the capital, and the action we are taking to clean up London's toxic air".

Read more: London's new electric black cab arrives on the capital's roads today

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