Drivers of electric taxis are being increasingly forced to engage in heated discussions with licensed minicab drivers and other motorists incorrectly using designated licensed taxi chargepoints.
According to taxi drivers the problem has become so bad they have called on the capital’s transport authority and chargepoint providers to sort out the issue before ‘it ends up in fights’.
In London alone over 4,000 electric taxi drivers have invested over £200million in Zero Emissions Capable (ZEC) vehicles since January 2018. The problem around designated taxi chargepoint access has escalated so much that a new channel to report private hire vehicles and other private cars using the bays has now been established.
Drivers on the social media platform Twitter are being urged to send in photos and details to @taxis_e who in turn will report to Transport for London (TfL) once a week.
A spokesperson from the @taxis_e group told TaxiPoint: “The best solution all round is for ESB and bp (chargepoint providers) to issue a Taxi RFID to Taxi drivers for use on E-Taxi charge bays.
“Enforcement for TfL is costly and proving ineffective.”
In the last month up to 24 May a total of 33 private hire vehicles were reported by the group to TfL.
Steve McNamara, Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), supported a similar idea. He said: “There is a growing problem withcars, vans and particularly Private Hire Vehicles using taxi only charging points. The solution is either a manual PIN type or card reader system that would only allow registered taxi users access or alternatively require a unique access level on the charging app systems that recognise registered taxi users.
“I have raised the problem and solution opportunities with TfL, they advise me they are looking at possible solutions, but the delay is finding a system that works across all the charging providers.”
It seems the issue can only be rectified two ways. The first option is for cities to provide everyone the correct number of rapid chargers, open to everyone, in centrally located areas. The alternative is to improve enforcement and place security features on the restricted few bays the sector has. Or in an ideal world a mix of both.
Caroline Pidgeon AM, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: “Rapid charging points are a vital form of infrastructure and investment. Their provision is critical to ensuring a speedy uptake of electric taxis, vans and other vehicles.
“TfL should not be the sole provider of rapid charging points, but it must continue to play a key role in rolling out greater provision. Reaching 300 rapid charging points in London and then stalling on further investment in the year ahead is not an option. We need far more charging points so that there is a real network for everyone.
“And while the provision of rapid charging points remains so pitifully low, the spaces that have been allocated solely for taxis must remain and enforcement increased. In the past I was promised that CCTV enforcement would be considered. If that policy is not introduced it is vital other enforcement action is now taken.”
Shaun Bailey, London Assembly Member and Conservative Mayoral Candidate, supported the option of dramatically expanding the network for everyone, which should in turn solve the enforcement issue.
TaxiPoint asked Bailey whether the Mayor of London, Transport for London (TfL) and chargepoint providers need to do more to ensure the correct vehicles are using EV taxi bays.
Bailey said: “Here’s the problem. The Mayor has encouraged people to drive electric cars without providing the infrastructure needed to support it. So people end up using charging points they’re not supposed to use.
“If there were more residential charging points, then electric-car owners would stop using dedicated charging points for black cabs.”
Bailey continued by adding: “It’s the same problem we’ve seen with residential charging points. The Mayor has told black cab drivers to switch to electric. But he hasn’t provided any support and he's only delivered 500 rapid-charge points. This isn’t nearly enough.
“The best way to make sure black cab drivers can always find a charging point is to increase the number of charging points.”
With all this going on there is also increasing concern over cab drivers’ safety. Several heated incidents whereby cab drivers have been forced to exit their vehicle to confront drivers misusing the designated bays have been reported.
The spokesperson for @taxis_e warned: “I am very concerned about driver safety as I see increasing numbers of frustrated cabbies taking direct action and removing PH off of E-Taxi bays, this is a recipe for disaster and a direct consequence of TfL’s failure to adequately enforce.
“It is only a matter of time before there is a serious incident involving a taxi driver and a minicab driver.”
TaxiPoint asked Shaun Bailey whether he thought the correct levels of enforcement are currently in place for the designated taxi chargepoints. He answered: “We can definitely look at more enforcement. I want cab drivers to feel safe when they’re going about their jobs.
“But the best way to make sure cab drivers have access to a charging point is to increase the number of charging points across London.”
In response to the concerns detailed, a TfL spokesperson told TaxiPoint: “We have been made aware of concerns about the use of taxi-dedicated rapid charge points by other vehicles.
“In response to this we are increasing visits by officers to charging bays and will continue to issue communications to licensees, making clear that in certain circumstances, misuse of taxi-dedicated rapid charge points could result in a Penalty Charge Notice.”
TfL also stressed to TaxiPoint that they have communicated to all licensees the importance of reporting misuse of taxi-dedicated rapid charge points.