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CLIPPER CABS: Fully electric black taxis could be made available to cabbies for just £230 A WEEK

Updated: Apr 3, 2022


Image credit: Clipper Cabs

Clipper Automotive, a tech start-up firm that specialises in electric vehicle (EV) conversions, has said a fleet of FULLY ELECTRIC black taxis could be made available to drivers costing just £230 a week.


In the quest to speed up its green credentials, the taxi industry may have found an interim solution to quickly convert more of its current fleet into more cost effective and environmentally friendly taxis.

The firm behind the technology, Clipper Automotive, was set up by two experts in their field, Dr Alexander Howard and Janosch Oppermann. Their aim has always been to turn diesel black taxis into Zero Emission Capable (ZEC) vehicles.


The London taxi industry has already invested heavily in new EV taxis since new vehicle regulations were introduced in January 2018. Since then over 5,000 electric taxis have been licensed by Transport for London (TfL), leaving roughly 9,000 licensed diesel cabs still working in the capital.


TaxiPoint’s Founder and Editor Perry Richardson caught up with Janosch to find out more...


Can you tell us a little more about the taxi? What range can it achieve and what has the feedback been like?


Hi Perry, thanks for talking to me. Yes of course, we have driven it ourselves and had some local drivers have a go. You can watch their reactions in our YouTube channel, just search for “Clipper Automotive”, the reactions there are real, we had someone from the LTDA in it, then a real driver Andrew that we knew from before, and Aiden the singing cabbie, who we reached out to just for this. They all enjoyed the smoothness of it.


In terms of range, it has the same cells in it as the van conversion you know of. So 40kWh worth of battery pouches. That gives you 150 miles WLTP, a little less if you correct for vehicle weight. Now WLTP includes highway driving and such, and it is a bit of a technical term really, a bit how exhaust emissions are measured with the hose in a clinical environment and real world emissions are then a whole other kettle of fish.

With these batteries it also depends on summer/ winter, how many auxiliary systems you have running and so forth. Like, running the radio takes almost no energy, running LED lamps is also almost free, incandescent bulbs like the headlights take a little bit more, but still not that much. As soon as you start heating things you reduce the range is what I am getting at, so the cabin heater is the biggest consumer, and the de-fogger of the rear window, so ideally you want to run these while charging and less when driving if you can. In any event, you shouldn’t have less than 100mile range with these unless you are in a snowstorm. On a summer’s day you might get a lot closer to the 150miles. Also keep in mind that they can be charged rapidly, so from 20% to 80% it takes you around 35 minutes, so you can do north of 100 miles without much trouble if you plug it in when you are on a break.

From talking to drivers, we understand that most London cabbies do about 120miles per day, so that is very realistic.


Are there plans to bring the retrofit to market? Have Transport for London (TfL) or any other licensing authorities shown interest?


Yes most certainly, we built a few on different plates now, we have an ‘07 as well as a ‘62 for example. We did a TX2 as the very first prototype too, but we are deliberately focusing on the TX4s at the moment. We get approached by people to do Fairways, wedding vehicles and some such, who we politely have to decline at the moment. We are very deliberate in our focus on the taxi trade for now, because they are real working vehicles that will make a difference to air quality in city centres. Changing someone's luxury weekend convertible to be electric is all fair and well, but it makes a much bigger difference to change vehicles that are driven a lot!


You asked about TfL and licensing. We are engaging with licensing offices across the country, I have emailed dozens of them in 2020 to test the water, and we are just now re-engaging with them. TfL want what is called type-approval and that costs a fortune and might include multiple crash tests, so we are carefully looking elsewhere first. Some smaller cities have been very welcoming, and will accept our vehicles with an extra inspection per vehicle, so that is what we are really after. As a matter of fact, if you are a driver outside London and think this would be great for your city: get in touch with us, tell us where you are, tell us who your local trade representative is, and let your licensing officer know that you want this (you can reach me at contact@clipper.cab).

How much will it cost and could there be an option to offer the retrofits outside of London?


The big question! We understand that this can only be a success when the price is right, one of the new hybrid taxis costs £70,000 if you factor all the bells and whistles in, the van is at £50,000, so we are looking at £39,950 + VAT which makes us the most affordable option already. Now, that is still a lot of money, so we are discussing with financing partners how that can be offered at a lower monthly rate.


But that is buying, I don’t think that's our most enticing offer just yet, much more interesting initially is try before you buy! We will rent them out at competitive rates, a diesel cab can be rented at £230, and then you have ~£30 worth of fuel per day with it, so realistically you pay £380 per week to drive currently.


We are aiming for £230 per week. And the fuel savings are for the driver. Charging this all the way up costs £4 or so I think, so even if you charge twice a day you are winning. It is cheaper if you charge them overnight at home.


Once a few of you have tried these in a realistic environment I am sure they are interesting for purchase as well. This only works if it is affordable enough for drivers, which is why we are very driven to offer these at the lowest price that we can.


If you are interested, drop me an email, the numbers will be strictly limited in 2022, so we will have to rent them on a first come first served basis.


Should funding be offered by Government to help fund diesel to electric retrofitting on taxis?


Ha! Yes, I mean that is the story here really. Drivers choosing to go electric benefit not only the passengers, but every single bystander benefits from it! Everybody who stands at a junction next to one of our electric vehicles benefits from breathing cleaner air, so why shouldn’t the local councils help their drivers to make a choice that is good for everyone? Solar panels on the roof were subsidised on homes, people are encouraged to eat less meat, the NHS helps you to quit smoking with classes, why not make switching to electric even more attractive by giving drivers a little extra to sweeten the transition?


Bringing this all the way back to licensing, some licensing offices tell us about their age limits which were meant to encourage you to switch from Euro4 to Euro5 and then Euro6. Now they tell us we can’t drive an ‘07 plate because it is bad for the environment, even though we turned it into Euro999, or EuroInfinity by removing the emissions altogether, that has been frustrating at times. In other councils that was less of a problem and they said we can have long extensions on the vehicle lifetime. One council even said we can run them indefinitely. Then sometimes people say: “Well, why would I want to spend so much money on an old car?” That is the point! It is meant to be older and older, we think of it as not the-next-taxi you buy, but instead the last taxi you ever have to buy!


Once they are all electric, that’s it, you might have to swap the batteries out every decade or so - and batteries are getting cheaper and cheaper every year, so why not stick to the chassis for good? We are next to a fleet operator and “regular” taxi mechanic and he has a customer's Fairway there. Aren’t they gorgeous! They just re-sprayed it, treated it for some rust and the owner is hoping to drive it for many more years, and he should, maybe get an electric upgrade for it at some point from us, but why throw something away that looks great, and replace it every 12 years? That’s the whole point here really, to make them electric and then you can drive a TX4 forevermore.


So, yes please, if you are reading this, and you want to have our all-electric black cabs in your city: 1) tell your councillor, 2) tell licensing about it, 3) tell us where you are and who your local representatives are. We are currently doing demo days around the southeast, but will come to any city in England where licensing, council and drivers want us. You can email me at contact@clipper.cab.


Perry it was nice to talk to you, let’s have another chat in summer and I will tell you about the first drivers collecting real fares with our vehicles, which will be a great milestone for us, that we are really looking forward to, it will be very exciting!

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