If someone asked you ‘what is the correct way to charge an electric taxi or vehicle?’ - would you know the right answer?
This is what worried Alex Johns from Altelium, when the Government announced it would invest £11 million into new EV charging infrastructure. He is concerned that people don’t know enough about their cars and how to charge them properly. He says this could have a huge impact on our wallets and our environment if we don’t learn the facts soon, and is calling for a public awareness campaign around EV charging.
Alex was one of the first people in the UK to operate a fleet of electric vehicles, managing the Tesla taxi fleet from Gatwick airport. The Teslas he managed for Gatwick had driven 300,000 miles each when the three-year trial was complete and yet the batteries were still at 82% State of Health.
The most basic measure of battery health is a calculation of the range of the battery when fully charged, compared to its range when it was brand new. On this basis, the batteries under Alex’s charge remained in good health.
Alex knows about batteries from both the practical and the theoretical point of view because he now works for Altelium, a company which specialises in battery data, health, insurance and warranty.
Altelium takes real time battery data, enhances it with AI, and then triangulates or checks this data through testing laboratory battery twins at Lancaster University, and this video explains the process.
This information makes it possible for the company to offer insured warranties on electric batteries which complement the original manufacturer’s warranty. This will be especially important to taxi drivers or those doing high mileage. For example mileage coverage could be increased from perhaps 100,000 miles over eight years to 200,000 over the same period, which is a very significant difference.
Caring for your battery
In terms of caring for a vehicle battery, the most important point is to know its chemistry. “Few EV drivers are aware that electric cars have different battery chemistries, which affects how they should be charged and used to optimise their lifespan. Battery chemistry can vary even between different version of the same model of a brand, such as the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range + (LFP prismatic batteries) and Long Range (NCA cylindric batteries),” Alex explains.
The most common battery cell chemistries are lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (NCA), lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), and lithium iron phosphate (LFP).
Depending on the chemistry, the following are the key steps to increasing the life and residual of your battery if you are a high mileage taxi or private hire driver:
Avoid fast charging too often (not more than 30% or your charging over the long term, although you may have to fast charge more on any particular day if you are on a long journey)
“Rest” the battery once a week (at least 4 continuous hours neither driving nor charging, at a moderate State of Charge)
Ensure the battery is fully charged once a week (only for LFP batteries)
Avoid using the top 10% or bottom 10% of your State of Charge (except when doing the weekly charge to 100% for LFP)
Always drive in “Eco” or “Chill” mode.
Choosing your next EV taxi
What should owner-drivers look for when considering their next vehicle, assuming their choice will be a pure electric vehicle?
There are, in Alex’s experience, four key requirements for an owner-driver when looking at an all-electric car to use as a taxi: purchase price, range, passenger space and boot space. Three passengers need to fit in the back comfortably, and the vehicle must be able to travel at least 200 miles between charges when fully laden. Drivers operating between cities or airports will also need to have good boot space for luggage, which rules out many cars that don’t fit enough luggage.
In terms of purpose built electric hackney carriage fleets, LEVC, Mercedes Vito/Viano and Nissan with its Dynamo 200 all have superb passenger space being purpose-built for the task. The range question is complicated by LEVC having a petrol range extending engine, but in general all the options tend to have just enough range to be viable, but not enough to be comfortable without the option to top- up charge during a shift.
If you are a taxi driver who can use saloon style vehicles there are good options on the market: the Tesla models Y and 3 (as ordered by Uber), the VW ID4 (as ordered by Addison Lee), the Hyundai IONIQ 5, the KIA EV6, Polestar 2, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volvo XC40 Recharge, the MG 5 EV and more will come on stream soon. The MG 5 EV has slightly less range than the others but according to Alex is by far the cheapest and has the best boot space for a taxi.