Edinburgh councillors back electric taxi fleet

Tuesday January 8th 2019

Electric taxis Edinburgh

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

Edinburgh councillors have thrown support behind proposals for a fleet of electric taxis, as a cab boss has spoken out in favour of embracing the technology.

The city council’s regulatory committee will discuss encouraging taxi firms to move to electric vehicles when it meets in May – after councillors backed making it a more attractive choice for the trade, including possibly reducing licensing fees.

City Cabs already has a fleet of five electric vehicles – with another five on their way soon. The company is set to plug in two rapid chargers at its West End headquarters, which takes 45 minutes to recharge batteries. The vehicles have a 90-mile radius as well as a range extender.

Les McVay, secretary of City Cabs, said: “We are getting really good feedback from drivers. They are generally saving between £5 and £7 per shift.

“There are very few working parts on the electric taxis, so the maintenance savings are substantial as well. Customers are liking them too.”

In October 2018, councillors agreed to push forward £3.3m plans to roll out 211 electric charging points across the city by 2023. Council assumptions predict that by 2020, taxis and private hire vehicles embracing electric technology could save 1,061 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Green Cllr Steve Burgess said said: “I would certainly support when we are next looking at the age and emissions policy at the next committee, that we ask officers to make recommendations about electric vehicles.

“I would be concerned if we were to wait for the infrastructure to be in place before we had any policy towards electric vehicles.”

Up until 2015, taxi drivers in Edinburgh were not permitted to use electric vehicles – but the council now predicts that by 2023, there will be 623 electric taxis and private hire vehicles operating in the Capital.

Regulatory services manager Andrew Mitchell urged councillors to ensure infrastructure was in place before requiring taxi firms to go electric.

In the council’s business case for expanding its electric vehicle infrastructure, a number of incentives have been touted for encouraging taxis to embrace the technology – including removing licensing fees for electric vehicles, rolling out electric only taxi ranks in desirable locations and introducing saloon hackney carriage licences for electric vehicles.

Mr McVay added: “The vehicles are pretty amazing. I think everybody is into them if it means cutting down pollution.

“It’s important that the council doesn’t go too fast, it needs to be sustainable. The extra chargers will help but the biggest concern is the current range of vehicles.”

Labour Cllr Scott Arthur called for any changes to be based on encouragement rather than enforcing more rules on the trade.

The council’s transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “Our electric vehicle infrastructure business case makes a real commitment to providing sustainable, efficient transport options across the city – and taxis are a key element of this.

“Greener travel is central to our transport agenda and alongside the promotion of cycling, walking and public transport use, our bold approach to improving electric vehicle infrastructure aims to make an impact on worsening air quality in the Capital.

“We are keen to explore ways in which we can incentivise the greater use of electric vehicles amongst taxi and private hire drivers, as well as encouraging lower emission vehicles, so I’m very pleased to see that the regulatory committee agrees with the ambitions set out in the business case.”

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