Will Electric Taxis be the future for London cabs?
The Hackney carriage could be London’s most iconic vehicle, with the exception perhaps of the classic red double decker bus. But a whole new breed of car is set to hit the streets of England’s capital in the coming years, following the launch of the world’s first fleet of all-electric taxis in Hong Kong this month.
Hong Kong has long been one of the world’s most polluted cities, with commercial vehicles being held accountable for over 3,000 extra deaths each year through ongoing exposure to the city’s choking smog. Therefore, the launching of 45 all-electric e6 taxis by the BYD Company this month represents a massive step in the right direction. “This not only asserts our green vision for promoting environmental sustainability for a better world”, remarked BYD chairman and president Wang Chuan-fu, “but is also a significant step for us in bringing green transport to benefit people”. And if all goes to plan, BYD intends to expand its empire into a fleet of 18,000 all-electric cabs for the city of Hong Kong alone.
The electric cabs run off iron phosphate batteries. And whilst these take around two hours to charge, they give the cars enough power to travel for up to 300 km. But despite the considerable environmental benefits, some might take a little more convincing about this new form transport. “I hope the charging time can be reduced” says Hong Kong cabbie Tsui Shing, “and the car is not as powerful as those using petrol or gas”.
But whether it’s a popular choice or not amongst Hong Kong cab drivers, London mayor Boris Johnson has already expressed a keen interest in furthering the reach of electric cabs in London, with 50 of the new BYD cabs already set to join London’s second largest minicab fleet, Green Tomato Cars. “It is my aim that London’s minicabs and taxis will be zero-emission by 2020, which will have a major impact on air quality”, said Johnson. “encouraging many more electric vehicles is a key part of this transformation, so it is great news that Green Tomato Cars has committed to operating 50 of these super clean machines from next year”.
It is hard to say how successful these new cabs will be. But whilst it’s difficult to imagine “taxi for sale” signs appearing on every iconic hackney carriage in London, it’s equally hard to see a positive future without some drastic measures being taken. In this instance, at least, Mayor Johnson does seem to be doing something sensible.