(Original edit of article for Taxi magazine)
Are we ready for the electric revolution?
The new electric cab has arrived, priced at £55,600. If I buy one, will I ever get my money back? The makers say the average cab driver could save £100 a week on fuel. By this reckoning I would save even more as a high fuel-user living thirty-five miles out of London. But there are some things I’m uncertain about: where are the charging points? Will the price of electricity sky-rocket in the wake of the emission-free revolution?
One factor that’s not talked about much is the government’s interest in going electric. Most of the price of a litre of diesel goes to the government in tax. If everyone goes electric, the government will be losing a lot of revenue: that’s why the government keep people drinking, smoking and gambling; so they can make money out of them. Will they put a higher tax on electricity? Recently, British Gas raised their electricity prices by 12.5%. Are higher prices and taxes the way forward? We have little choice but to use electricity in our homes. If our vehicles become dependent on electricity they will have an even bigger mandate to charge us what they like.
I still see few car charging points around: I thought there would be hundreds of them in London by now. Are there any rapid charging points in London yet? There aren’t many slow ones. I’ve seen a few around Berkerley Square but I can’t spend several hours a day waiting for my cab to be charged up on a working day. Surely, there will need to be whole streets dedicated to rapid car-charging bays if there is to be a serious switch to electric vehicles – maybe use the stretch of Harrow Road from the Metropole to the Paddington ramp? I’ve not seen any in my town, so that’s a negative for me.
It’s going to take many years for every London taxis to be converted. During the long transition period we will surely see the number of charging points increase. We’ll also see a decrease in the number of conventional fuel stations. There could come a middle period where neither electric nor diesel drivers find adequate re-fuelling facilities.
There’s a gap in my education, and I’ve no idea how electricity is produced. The National Grid say we are becoming increasingly reliant on imported electricity. I didn’t know electricity was something that’s transported around Europe on a lorry – and by mostly foreign-owned companies. In Brexit Britain, I don’t like the sound of that. Transport for London research is reported to have said that Britain would need up to twenty new power stations to service the electric vehicle revolution. It’ll take more than a few fields full of plastic windmills then? I notice many new motorways no longer have a continuous hard shoulder. They could be useful in the future for proving sanctuary to vehicles caught short of electricity.
On one hand TfL see problems with providing enough electricity and charging points; but on the other they are forcing us to buy electric cabs!
There’s even doubt in some quarters whether electric vehicles are actually much greener than current models. I understand that fine particle pollution is caused by brake linings and tyres. If electric vehicles are cleaner than conventional ones, how about giving us some carrot to go with the stick, and allow electric taxis to use Bank Junction?
The price tag is going to put drivers off, as is the cost of finance. The £55,600 cash price is only the start of it. Many of us would like to buy a new cab, but we’re not earning enough to put our faith in such an expensive new vehicle, with unresolved worries about range and charging.
I wondered at first if the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) was hoping was to sell most of their new taxis abroad, but using us as guinea pigs first. But I can’t believe that taxi drivers in other countries are doing any better than we are. If they are, maybe I should study for the Knowledge of Baku, Azerbaijan. Have other countries sorted out their charging points?
No, it seems the LEVC think they are onto a winner with us in the UK. They must be frustrated over the lack of charging points too, but have faith that things will improve. Apparently, the electric cab can run to Scotland and back without charging. I make it about 800 miles to Glasgow. This cab would allow me to drive from Bedfordshire into London for a day’s work for almost a full week. The battery is guaranteed for five years, but should last about 15 years. I’m still sceptical, but if the future really is electric, maybe we should give LEVC the benefit of the doubt? If the new cab fails to deliver on its promises, there’s nowhere to hide.
Then again, maybe we should think further ahead and forget about the electric car revolution completely. Aren’t we meant to be calling up self-driving pods in a few years’ time?