Updated: Dec 12, 2021
The taxi industry have their fingers crossed for a retrofitted Mercedes-Benz Vito taxi set to be submitted to London transport regulators before Christmas.
The cleaner retrofit technology could help extend the age limits of black cabs and aid current vehicle shortages if the Vito, and a further LTI TX4, option are approved.
If approved, Transport for London (TfL) will follow the lead set by several over major councils across England and Scotland. Some authorities are currently offering grants to taxi drivers willing to upgrade the cabs they drive to cleaner EURO 6 compliant levels.
Aside from buying a new Zero-Emission Capable (ZEC) taxi, retrofitting existing cabs to meet Euro 6 compliance standards is seen as one way to eliminate daily charges and future proofing a driver’s taxi. Using a fully approved retrofit conversion could not only save money on fees, but it will also ensure that the taxi is less harmful to the environment.
Cab drivers could make the switch to greener cabs for as little as £1,300 in some cities according to the latest research.
According to Cybrand, a UK firm that provides retrofit exhaust and emission control solutions for diesel-engined applications, Manchester, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bradford and Bath all offer taxi drivers the option to convert their cabs in England. In Scotland the big four cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee also provide clean air grant funding for cabbies.
Outside of London the conversion is currently available for Euro 5 Mercedes Vito, Peugeot E7 taxis and now the LTi TX4. Earlier this year the price to retrofit was £5,195 plus vat, though for most cities implementing Clean Air Zones there are grants available through local government, generally for 80% of this amount meaning the typical cost to a taxi driver is just £1,234.
Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said in TAXI Newspaper: “One of the most common calls we are taking at the moment is members asking if we know where they can rent or buy a cab. With work levels back at a reasonable level and more drivers returning to the trade every day, the shortage of cabs is increasingly becoming a problem.
“Sales of new cabs, both TXE’s and Nissans are at an all-time high but the change in the age limit is taking even more cabs off the road than are coming on. The fleet is hovering at around 14,000 vehicles and with the final drop in the age limit to 12 years, we could fall below 13,000 cabs unless something is done.
“At a time when the mayor is making tens of thousands of ordinary Londoners pay £12.50 a day to take their cars off their driveways, I hold out little hope of a change in policy, although we have asked constantly. And so, the only realistic option is to convert the 4,000 Euro V cabs in the fleet to Euro VI giving them a 15-year age limit.
“We have been working with Europe’s leading conversion company (HJS) for nearly four years to get a system approved for TX4’s and Vito’s before the age limit starts to hit the EU V cabs late next year. It’s been a massive uphill battle and TfL have fought the conversion every inch of the way.
“A few weeks back a Vito was presented for inspection at NSL and was rejected on some minor but important fitment items. Hopefully these will be amended, and the cab re-presented before Christmas in order that the 10,000 mile working trials can begin.
“The Vito, hopefully being followed very shortly afterwards by a TX4 – which is currently on its way back from Germany.
“If we can get both approved, we can halt and then reverse the trend in vehicle numbers allowing the trade to start to grow again and continue to provide the best taxi service on the planet to more of our fellow Londoners and visitors alike.”