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Cambridge electric taxis boost could raise air quality and keep fares down

Abdul Muquith with the Panther Electric Taxi . Picture: Keith Heppell
Abdul Muquith with the Panther Electric Taxi . Picture: Keith Heppell

A government grant will fund enough charge points to support the city's taxi fleet switchover.

Air quality around the city looks set to improve and taxi fares could stabilise now that Cambridge has been confirmed as one of 10 UK cities that will benefit from government funding for improved electric vehicle infrastructure.

More than 40 charge points will be installed in the city, and taxi drivers say the switchover to fully electric vehicles is likely to happen quickly once an affordable car with good range is on the market.

The Government grant of £426,000 will be added to £200,000 from the city council and City Deal which will pay for rapid charge points. The rapid charge points cost around £22,500 to install, and can charge a car to 80 per cent capacity in just 20 minutes.

Panther Taxis in Cambridge has two Nissan Leafs in operation, one of which it has been monitoring to assess the benefits of electric vehicles.

“Both drivers are extremely happy with the vehicles. They give a very smooth ride and they’re very, very quiet. The customers get a bit of a feel-good factor too,” said Panther Taxis manager Paul Clare.

“We’re obviously very pleased that the council has got the nod for the grant.

“The chargers will put our drivers in the position to make the switch, so it’s good news because the drivers like them and customers like them.

“Fuel is one of the drivers’ three biggest overheads. If drivers are able to run their micro business in a significantly cheaper fashion than they have before, there will be less inflationary pressure on fares as a whole. It might be that the public get a win out of it as well.”

At the moment, however, the biggest drawback for electric taxi drivers is the range, and the lack of available chargers. There are only two rapid charge points accessible at the moment, one at the A14 services, and another at a Nissan dealership. Having to charge on a fast (up to 6 hours) or domestic charger (up to 10 hours) is not an option in the middle of a shift.

“The Nissan Leafs are advertised as having a 130-mile range per charge, but they do more like 70-90 miles on a full charge,” said Mr Clare.

“The problem with electric vehicles is that drivers are going out on their shift looking to do 200 miles, or sometimes more, and they are getting ‘range anxiety’; have they got enough charge left for the shift?

“We’re looking for the car that does 150-200 miles per charge. There are cars that do that, like Teslas, but they are £40,000. We need a £25,000 car with that range on it.

“We won’t put out a fleet of Nissan Leafs, but there are new Hyundais out this year, and we’ll keep experimenting as we look to be at the forefront of the technology as it becomes available.”

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