Taxi drivers to help Southend Council decide where new electric chargers will be fitted

Southend-on-sea Borough council is looking for up to fifty taxi drivers to take part in a study to help decide where four new rapid recharge points for electric taxis will be installed. The four rapid electric chargers will be for the exclusive use of taxis, making it easier and more viable for taxis to be electric and help to improve air quality in and around the town.

The work follows the council successfully gaining a £90,000 grant from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) in February this year. 

The grant is part of a £450,000 pot of funding for 17 charge points across the East of England region and part of the delivery of the government’s Road to Zero Strategy and Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, which aims to take advantage of innovation in UK engineering and technology to usher in cleaner, greener journeys. Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, says: “Just like local households, taxi drivers need help and support to embrace the change to low emissions vehicles and particularly access to charging infrastructure, and I am pleased that this important piece of work is progressing. “We need to know where best to put the four rapid chargers, and so consultation with the taxi trade has already begun. “However, we are also seeking up to fifty volunteers to have a device fitted to their taxis for a month so that we can analyse the activity and identify the best locations for the chargers. 

"These drivers will also receive a report showing how suitable electric vehicles would be for them and the savings they could make in their running costs. “The study is due to start during October, so that we can choose locations, and then procure and install the chargers in the first half of 2020.” The telematics device that would be installed tracks movements but is completely anonymised and will not show the council specific car or driver details. Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment and planning, says: “Promoting better air quality for future generations is a priority for this administration and encouraging sustainable transport is one part of the puzzle. 

"Taxis are relatively high mileage users, and therefore have specific charging needs and dedicated infrastructure to ensure they are able to top up their batteries. “We hope that installing more rapid rechargers will make it easier for taxi drivers to consider making the switch.” Taxi drivers interested in taking part in the study should contact Elo Knight, the council’s energy officer on 01702 212709 or via email by Monday 14 October. The project supports the council’s Air Quality Action Plan which was agreed locally and approved by DEFRA in June 2018 in response to high levels of nitrogen dioxide being recorded along the A127 between the Bell and Cuckoo Corner junctions in November 2016. The air-quality data recorded by the council shows that the majority of air pollution is caused by vehicles, especially queuing vehicles, so focussing on transport would have the most immediate and beneficial impact and help support the Low Emission Strategy (LES) adopted by the council in December 2018. Alongside the electric taxi project, the council is also looking to improve public charging infrastructure, to add to the 14 public charge points currently available. External funding has been gained that should see the installation of at least another 90 public charge points in the first few months of 2020 m, and another 80 more points through streetlights is being investigated.