London cabbies’ green ambitions slowed by poor EV charging set-up, warn taxi firms
Taxi firms have called for more action from government and City Hall to address failures in London’s EV charging infrastructure, which they argue is slowing the transition to electric fleets.
“There’s work to be done on infrastructure,” Liam Griffin, CEO of Addison Lee, told City A.M.
“When we signed up to this, there were all sorts of promises of the amount of chargers that will be available in London and they haven’t materialized in the way that we’ve been promised, so that has affected some of the drivers’ appetite to take on electric vehicles.”
EV taxi sales have surged since 2018, when TfL introduced guidance that all new cabs must be “zero emissions capable.” However, multiple groups contacted by City A.M. argued that problems with the current charging set-up are slowing the sector’s move towards greener vehicles.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) said “the availability of public charging points, particularly rapid charging points for ‘on the go’ charging, is a big concern for taxi drivers as they need to know it’s viable to run an electric taxi commercially.”
He added: “without action from City Hall and Government, the shortage will become more acute and risks slowing down the record pace of investment we are seeing currently in our sector.”
Why are all the chargers in the richest boroughs?
Taxi firms told City A.M. that EV charge points are currently located in the most affluent areas of London and are often a significant distance from where cab drivers live, adding time and delay to their journeys.
“Drivers often tell me that accessing reliable charging near their homes is critical to their decision to switch to an electric vehicle,” Andrew Brem, Uber’s UK general manager, said. “The uncomfortable truth is that the richest boroughs in London currently have the best access to charging.”
Data from Uber and the taxi firm Freenow reveals that the most common areas London cabbies live are Tower Hamlets, Newham, Brent, Redbridge, Greenwich, Dartford and Barking and Dagenham.
None of these areas feature in the top five boroughs for EV chargers, which are Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, and Richmond, according to DfT data.
Mariusz Zabrocki, Freenow’s UK general manager, said that it is a “paradoxical situation,” in which those who have the most need for EV chargers are often the furthest away.
“We definitely need to increase the number of chargers together with increasing vehicles, but I would say that’s been happening. But what hasn’t happened is placing them where they’re needed.”
What do the drivers say?
Roberto Cancini, a 36-year-old Freenow driver from Wimbledon, said that reliable access to charge points would affect his decision to transition to an electric vehicle.
“I was thinking of switching to electric cars but I live in South-West, next to Wimbledon. I was looking for a charger… but I couldn’t spot any close by,” he said.
As the UK edges towards the 2030 EV mandate and taxi firms push for larger electric fleets, Cancini told City A.M. that the high costs associated with going electric, coupled with wider economic problems, have added to drivers’ fears of making the switch.
“Sometimes it is quite stressful when I start thinking about it, which car should I take, you know, are there going to be enough chargers.”
City Hall did not respond to a request for comment.