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THE GREENEST UK TAXI AND PHV FLEETS: Which cities are leading the way?

With traffic increasing year on year, and cars becoming ‘bigger, badder and better’, the air quality in large cities has taken a beating for many years. With the Government planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK from 2030, Lease Fetcher wanted to investigate how green current UK taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) fleets are and which areas of the country are leading the way when it comes to electrifying their fleets.

Lease Fetcher, the UK’s first car leasing comparison site, also looked into how the average taxi and PHV fleet looks. Which car manufacturer makes a good vehicle? And do taxi and PHV colour preferences match those of the general public?

By sending out Freedom of Information requests to the 25 biggest cities in the UK, Lease Fetcher were able to gather a clear overview of which ones have the greenest fleets, and provide some unique insight into what the nation's favourite taxi and PHV manufacturers and models are. Here’s what they reported...

How green are UK taxi and PHV fleets?

Investigating the fuel spread across the 25 taxi and PHV fleets, there is good and bad news.

Starting with the bad news; diesel still reigns supreme on a national scale. Across the 25 cities, 53.74% of all taxis and PHVs are still diesel-fuelled, and a whopping 72.07% if you exclude London. That’s 80,451 licensed diesel taxis and minicabs still roaming British roads - and that’s only counting the 25 largest cities.

The good news is that hybrid electric vehicles in the industry have overtaken petrol-fuelled ones and hold a strong second place with 33.09% of all cabs. Exclude London, and the second place is a little less impressive, albeit still a second place, with 12% hybrid vehicles.

The fuel charts below show the fuel breakdown of the fleets across the 25 largest UK cities, the first including London, the second excluding.

So, how far away from fully electric taxi and PHV fleets are we in the UK? Lease Fetcher reached out to a few experts to ask just that.

“At Cab Direct we continue to see the demand for our electric cars increase, however, drivers all over the country still experience difficulty with charging availability when out on long shifts. We need to see more investment into charging networks before this becomes a feasible way of working for taxi drivers,” says Susan Smith, CabDirect.

If a fully electric UK taxi and PHV fleet is to become a reality, authorities and car manufacturers need to show initiative and invest in developing both affordable vehicles and an EV friendly infrastructure.

“The transition will be accelerated by the decisions taken in the board rooms at car manufacturers such as Jaguar, who recently announced that they will only produce fully electric cars in the UK from 2025. If other manufacturers follow suit, this will speed up the rollout of electric vehicles across the board,” says John Richardson, FleetCover.

The need for manufacturers and authorities to step up has only increased over the last year with coronavirus causing havoc across the world.

“Many taxi drivers have been hit hard financially by the Coronavirus pandemic. In return, their ability to invest in EV models that are currently more expensive (though cheaper to run) than their combustion engine counterparts is constrained until life returns closer to pre-Covid times,” says Amer Hasan, Minicabit.

Greenest taxi and PHV fleets revealed

So, which of the 25 largest UK cities has the greenest fleets?

Looking at electric taxis and PHVs by a percentage of the city’s total fleet, there are three green frontrunners:

  • Milton Keynes leads the way with 6.57% of their fleet fully electric.

  • A close second is Birmingham with 5.67% of their fleet electric.

  • Third place goes to London with 4.54% of their fleet electric.

The below table shows the top 10 greenest UK taxi fleets, based on EV percentage.

The nation’s most used taxi and PHV manufacturer

The uncrowned King of taxi and PHV is Toyota, accounting for a whopping 31.91% of all cars in the taxi and PHV industry in the UK’s 25 biggest cities (49,112 vehicles).

Mercedes-Benz takes a strong second place with a market share of 13.87% (21,347 cabs).

Third, is LEVC (also previously known as London Taxi International / London Taxi Company) with 10.51% (18,067 taxis).

The nation’s most used taxi and PHV model

Moving onto the popular car models used in the taxi and PHV industry and you’ve really got three main manufacturing contenders, Toyota, Mercedes and Volkswagen.

In first place, not surprisingly, is the Toyota Prius with a total of 32,927 vehicles. A clear winner making 30.11% of all taxis and PHVs in the 25 cities.

Second place is the traditional London black Cab, the Hackney Carriage with 9,637 taxis (8.81%).

Toyota grabs another place with the Auris taking a third spot with 7,420 vehicles (6.79%).

The above tables represent all taxis, not just electric vehicles.

An issue that came to the mind of Lease Fetcher when investigating how to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in taxi fleets is the current car model availability. Although there are electric car models that are used both across fleets and for personal use, for example the Auris and Prius, many of the popular car models used for cab work are yet to emerge.

Amer Hasan, Minicabit, hopes we should start to see more suitable EV cars for the cab sector, such as minivans, emerge from 2024 onwards. Importantly, they should be priced with little/no premiums to combustion engine cars and so should be affordable to deploy on scale.

National colour preference

Of all the cabs registered in the top 25 biggest UK cities in 2020, there was a loud and clear colour favourite. With more than 51,706 vehicles or 38.76% of licensed taxis and PHVs, the first place and preferred colour was black.

Comparing the taxi and PHV fleet colours to the colour preferences of the general public, the general top 10 share a lot of similarities although the rank of the colours differ.

Below Lease Fetcher listed the top 10 taxi colours vs. the top 10 colours for cars registered in 2020. It’s worth noting that the taxi colours are all taxis and PHVs on the register in 2020, and the SMMT numbers are exclusively new cars registered in 2020:

The future of the UK taxi and PHV industry

For a cab driver to get their taxi or PHV licence from their Local Authority, their car cannot be older than 5 -14 years old max, depending on the region. As long as this requirement is either kept in place or improved and the 2030 diesel target is honoured - taxi fleets will inevitably become fully electric at some point (5-14 years) after this deadline.

Susan Smith, CabDirect, says the speed of EV adoption depends on Government support. Smith says: “Government support is needed to facilitate this move, firstly to increase the availability and compatibility of charge points and also by providing more grants for those who wish to buy electric. The Government should also be investing directly with taxi manufacturers, allowing them to develop more electric solutions at an affordable price point.”

There’s a lot of talk about flying taxis with the news of the UK’s first taxi/drone airport being built in Coventry. Lease Fletcher’s expert panel all agree that this is not something that will happen in the near future - not as an affordable transport for the masses anyway.

“For flying taxis, a whole new regulatory framework is required that needs to align airspace with ground transport operations, which may need to operate on a national or city level. We might see ad hoc trials over the next 5 years in the UK though larger cities but it will probably be 2030 by the time a flying taxi service is ready and reasonably affordable for consumers to use,” says Amer Hasan, Minicabit.


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