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'Too much uncertainty!' In the first of a two-part series, four IRU taxi members detail the key challenges undermining the transition to net-zero emissions – and what is needed to decarbonise efficiently.
Europe | Geneva

Greener taxis: What’s standing in the way?

4 Jun 2024 · Environment

'Too much uncertainty!' In the first of a two-part series, four IRU taxi members detail the key challenges undermining the transition to net-zero emissions – and what is needed to decarbonise efficiently.

We asked four IRU taxi members – BVTM (Germany), KNV (the Netherlands), UNIT (France) and Veezu (UK) – to help us better understand the European taxi sector’s journey to carbon neutrality.

What are the decarbonisation challenges facing the sector?

BVTM: The key issue for decarbonising the sector is reliability. Electricity prices, financial support, charging infrastructure, the price of cars: there is too much uncertainty! 

While taxi companies are willing to become greener and shift towards net-zero emissions, they have to minimise economic risks and take careful and responsible decisions for their business and drivers. 

Governments should do more to provide greater assurance and support taxi businesses that invest in electric vehicles (EV) or EV infrastructure.

KNV: The main issue for us is the scarce availability of passenger cars and van models that are affordable, green and have enough range. 

The sector is also actively preparing for the fact that all tender contracts will eventually contain a zero-emission clause and major cities will establish zones where only zero-emission taxis are allowed.

UNIT: Taxis are at the end of the EV production chain. Our sector is hindered by the driving range of EVs and the undersized charging network for the specific needs of transport professionals.

First, taxi drivers need to pay particular attention to vehicle range as they cover up to 500km per day. Then comes comfort. They need enough space for more than four passengers and a vehicle where they can comfortably spend up to 12 hours per day.

Finally, costs, both for purchasing and charging vehicles, weigh heavily on taxis. As prices are regulated, taxi drivers have no flexibility in terms of income. They also often have to charge their cars at home, as the cost of fast charging is too high. However, in urban areas, most drivers reside in apartment buildings where arranging home charging can be complex, especially for those who are tenants.

Veezu: The fundamental challenge to decarbonising the sector is the lack of charging infrastructure. This has led to the poor uptake of EVs. The feedback we’ve received is that the current charging infrastructure in cities and towns is inadequate, expensive and frequently unavailable.

Governments need to set and reach targets to provide a minimum number of charging points since home charging is not always available to drivers. The issue of rising costs is also central. 

On the technical side, a key concern is the range of EVs, which is currently too limited. 

Finally, the scarce availability of car models suitable for taxi operations has deterred professionals from adopting EVs.

What is needed to decarbonise efficiently?

BVTM: As mentioned, the sector needs stability and reliability. We need reliable electricity prices, financial support, charging infrastructure, and more affordable cars. It is very hard to efficiently decarbonise given all the uncertainties.

KNV: We need realistic goals: zero-emission vehicles are the future. But there are still challenges that require our attention in order to transition efficiently. 

The charging capacity, both the infrastructure and grid capacity, is currently not sufficient and the technology is bound to evolve to allow greater range. As vehicles tend to become heavier, it may be necessary to increase the weight limit of the B driving licence. 

Lastly, financial or fiscal incentives to boost the transition are necessary. The key will be a transparent communication with governments about what the sector can expect and when to reassure operators and encourage investments.

UNIT: One idea would be to implement specific subsidies for taxi drivers as it would compensate for their current public service obligations. But on the technical side, it is necessary to develop a dedicated fast-charging network for taxis in cities. Alternatively, taxis need to have facilitated access to slow-charging solutions, such as charging in collective residential buildings or specific reservations on public networks.

Veezu: Based on the current challenges, a comprehensive charging network needs to include more charging points along motorways and in cities. However, their costs also need to be regulated and correspond to the cost of domestic supply. 

Since range is a key issue for the profession, there needs to be better information and a wider selection of vehicles suitable for the taxi business. 

Government policies also need to be clear and timely, enabling operators to plan future purchases. Incentives, such as grants for purpose-built taxis, should be extended to private hire vehicles to encourage the adoption of EVs.

The second article will look at what today’s taxi customers value the most, the biggest misconceptions surrounding taxis, and what the sector will look like in five to ten years.