London’s first modern fleet of battery-powered mini cabs has been launched by private hire company Thriev.
Some 20 Chinese-built BYD E6 electric cars have been registered with Transport for London as private hire vehicles, rising to 50 by May. After that, says Thriev founder Arvind Vij, the company should be adding as many as 20-30 each month.
The fleet will run 24 hours per day, seven days per week and four specially trained drivers will be allocated to each car. Vij says that the cost of using an E6 will be "much lower" than the cost of a black cab and will also undercut the big mini cab operators.
Although the E6 cannot be registered as a ‘Black Cab’ because of the turning circle requirements, Thriev is aiming at the established 50,000-strong mini cab market, which relies heavily on diesel-powered MPVs.
The BYD E6 is powered by a 40kWh battery and should offer a range of around 180 miles on a single charge, according to Isbrand Ho, managing director of BYD’s export division. The E6 was launched as a taxi in Hong Kong last March and a fleet is already operating in the Netherlands.
Thriev says the taxi fleet will be backed up by a network of high-speed ‘superchargers’, which are being installed in partnership with British Gas. The deal also promises that Thriev’s chargers will tap into the UK’s supply of renewable energy.
With the cost of 1kWh of charging costing around 10p, a full day’s 200 miles of driving will cost between £5 and £8, depending what time of the day the car is recharged, according to Vij. The battery pack will manage 4000 recharges using a high-speed charger, says BYD, which would give the battery pack a 10-year lifespan.
The company is placing great emphasis on the E6’s zero local emissions and pollution, with the new fleet arriving just as London mayor Boris Johnson unveiled plans to replace the current fleet of 22,000 diesel-powered black cabs with new EV and petrol range-extender designs.
One of those designs will be the Nissan NV200, which will appear from the end of this year. Initially available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an all-electric version following in 2015, the NV200 will be built in Coventry and will cost around £30,000.
London’s first electric cab fleet is generally accepted to have been the Bersey taxi, launched in 1897, which saw a peak fleet of over 75 vehicles. It had a range of around 35 miles and the company had a battery exchange system in Lambeth. The firm collapsed in 1899, partly after pressure from established London cabbies.