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Chinese automaker helps UK taxi drivers go green

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-05 16:00
People get into electric black cabs made by China-owned London Electric Vehicle Company. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The China-owned London Electric Vehicle Company, also known as LEVC, is backing a scheme in the British city of Coventry that encourages taxi drivers to ditch traditional combustion engines for low emission vehicles.

Led by Coventry City Council, the "Go Electric Taxi" initiative will upgrade the city's charging infrastructure and offer a range of incentives to the city's black cab drivers to switch from old diesel models to the new TX hybrid black cab made by LEVC, which is owned by Hangzhou-based automaker Geely.

"Electric vehicles are the future both nationally and globally," said Kamran Caan, the council's cabinet member for public health. "We are committed to cutting air pollution in Coventry."

Commonly associated with London, black cabs have been manufactured in Coventry since 1948, and the city has its own fleet of the cars.

Geely acquired the maker of the black cab, the London Taxi Company, in 2013. The company rebranded as the LEVC and built a new facility to build the TX in Coventry.

The TX maintains the iconic look of the black cab though the taxis no longer run on diesel.

The car is a series hybrid, with all four wheels always powered by electricity and a small petrol combustion engine charging the battery when needed, as opposed to a parallel hybrid where the petrol engine cuts in and drives two wheels.

The "Go Electric Taxi" initiative launched on Wednesday with the support of German industrial manufacturing company Siemens, Irish energy company ESB, British mobile taxi app Gett, and LEVC. The scheme has also received support from the UK government.

"Britain's black cabs are iconic around the world," said Jesse Norman, UK minister for roads and the future of mobility. "That is why the government is supporting this initiative with 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million), helping Coventry to champion these new electric models."

As part of the scheme, Siemens and ESB have installed the first six of 39 rapid charging points around the city and will offer free charging for six months. Gett will not take commission from TX drivers for rides booked through its mobile app for three months.

For its part, LEVC will offer two-week test drives and will waive licensing fees worth 2,500 pounds on the first 60 of its model TX hybrid cars ordered by Coventry-based taxi drivers.

"This new scheme will ensure that Coventry's taxi sector has one of the most modern, customer-centric fleets in the UK," said Chris Gubbey, chief executive of LEVC. "These extended trials will give drivers a chance to get comfortable with our proven electric vehicle technology."

Recent UK legislation stipulates that all new black cabs in London must be battery-powered. There are currently 500 TX vehicles operating in the capital. LEVC has also delivered orders of the TX to Hamburg in Germany and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Hamburg-based transport company ioki selected the TX for a shuttle service launched in July. LEVC said the service registered 10,000 rides in the first four weeks of operation.

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