Removing roadblocks is key to the shift to electric taxis

Taxi drivers want to go green but action is needed to make this possible, says Mariusz Zabrocki, General Manager of FREENOW UK.

The future of urban mobility is undoubtedly electric. The landscape of sustainable transport is ever evolving with three-quarters of 18–29-year-olds envisioning EVs as the future of urban mobility, as affirmed by FREENOW’s latest research. Their popularity is also growing amongst taxi drivers – interestingly, 70% of FREENOW taxi trips are carried out via EV black cabs.

The transition to EVs has been underpinned by the government’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, which would put the UK on course to be the fastest G7 country to decarbonise cars and vans.

Despite this, the road to widespread EV adoption has challenges, such as the lack of fully electric black cabs, charging infrastructure and affordability. Greater targeted support is required from the government if we are to see a step-change in EV take-up to help alleviate issues spurred by the increasing operational costs within the taxi sector.

Affordability and access are key

The costs of running an EV remains high for drivers, hence the need for greater equity. In a recent study by FREENOW ahead of the London mayoral elections, nine in 10 black cab drivers said that making EV taxis more affordable is important in supporting them in making the transition with 72% stating the cost of vehicles impacted them financially.

Black cab drivers have very limited choices when it comes to vehicles, and current requirements, including turning circle, prevent fully electric black cabs from being available. If the new Mayor of London and TfL are serious about their mission to decarbonise the sector, action needs to be taken swiftly.

Affordable and equitable access to rapid EV charging points also continues to be one of the main challenges for taxi drivers, particularly in city centres like London. EV charge points are typically located in the most affluent areas of the capital and are often a significant distance from where cab drivers live, adding time and delay to their journeys.

The current 20% VAT applied to public charging points has been a deterrent for many, pushing them to rely on private home charging solutions. A revision of VAT rates on charging point usage would significantly influence taxi drivers’ transition to electric vehicles and signals the need for greater intervention from the government if we are to see a paradigm shift in EV adoption.

The need for targeted support

The current Plug-In Taxi Grant, which provides grants to cab drivers looking to switch to electric models, has been extended into next year, albeit at a reduced rate. The Department for Transport announced earlier in the year that it was cutting the maximum grants on offer to cab operators to £6,000 as it extends the scheme until 5 April 2025.

The electric taxi market has grown rapidly since the grant’s introduction, with sales overtaking the number of diesel taxis sold in London in 2022, marking a milestone for the sector. In London alone, over half of black cabs are now zero emission capable. Despite this extension, there is no indication of whether it will be extended beyond 2025 and what support will remain in place to support drivers looking to advance on their sustainability journey.

FREENOW’s EV subsidy ensures that the sector continues to thrive as it moves towards a more sustainable future, with drivers switching to lower, zero emission vehicles, in line with the UK’s national net zero targets.

In London and across the UK, more government spending is needed to support the right infrastructure and to help enable the ride-hailing sector to continue to operate and grow sustainably. While addressing the affordability challenges in just one factor, the VAT discrepancy and playing field must be levelled so that drivers are supported with both on-street and home charging.

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Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of inews.co.uk, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.