As a “Green” activist, trying to drive the EV revolution via my eco: Electric Car Organisation, it feels strange calling for the scaping of Clean Air zones, but currently, all they will do is impose another blunt stealth tax on the countries poor. Until there is a healthy second-hand market, most SMEs, or lower-income drivers simply cannot afford to move to new expensive EVs.
Currently, the shortage in new cars in general and EVs in particular, is allowing manufacturers to “price gauge” customers, maintaining artificially high 30% premiums for EV models compared to their equivalent petrol versions.
This shortage will not abate until 2025/26 when EV manufacturing is set to overtake petrol cars and prices are predicted to harmonise with premiums disappearing. However, due to EV demand exceeding supply for the foreseeable future, second-hand values of EVs are likely to remain high and available volumes low.
In London, ULEZ revenues are used to fund “Transport for London” (TFL) services goo, since good public transport is vital for the successful operation of clean air zones, as it provides a feasible alternative to owning a car. However, the expansion of the London ULEZ Zone planned for August 2023 has proven highly controversial, as it imposes a substantial tax burden on another 5 million residents, who live in boroughs such as Bromley that have relatively poor public transport. This when combined with a shortage of EVs makes the switch impossible for many and just creates tax revenue with no clear benefit to the local population.
This problem is even greater in the new “CAZ” (Clean Air Zones) that have been rolled out across many other UK cities such as Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Southampton. The backlash has been so great in poorer Northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool that even the politicians who had spent millions drawing up their CAZ plans, have been forced to back down and them on a longer-term hold.
However, there are alternative options available to these Cities.
Local taxi firms are often some of the biggest polluters, simply because of the high mileage their vehicles drive per day. Many have already migrated to second-hand Toyota Prius, which delivers outstanding fuel efficiency and can be sourced in volume, at relatively low prices, as they were the first generation of cleaner cars launched 13 years ago in 2000. However, they still burn petrol and are much greater polluters than pure EVs.
Although EV batteries are only guaranteed by manufacturers for 100,000 miles or 10 years, they are expected on average to last for 200,000 miles and usually will outlast their vehicles and enter “Second Lives” as garage wall batteries used to store cheaper overnight power, for home use during peak tariffs.
This high millage battery life, combined with 60% cheaper operating costs compared to equivalent petrol cars, which is created by lower fuel and maintenance costs (18 moving parts in an EV engine compared to 2,000 in a petrol one), makes them ideal for high-millage taxi use.
Local taxi firms cannot afford the capital outlay required to create a “Green Fleet” of brand-new EVs or the ability to build overnight charging hubs. However, Local Councils have billions of pounds of assets which they can borrow against cheaply, allowing them to buy/lease large fleets of EVs that they can then rent at the same cost “per mile” as driving petrol cars to local taxi firms, leaving these firm driving new “Clean” vehicles at no extra cost. It is expected that in most cases the council would even make a profit from these “Green Fleets” of EV taxis.
The council would also have to build or convert one town centre car park to create an “Electric Charging Hub” for these new EV fleets. This electric hub would need massive storage batteries on their roofs, to store cheap overnight electricity and the power generated from solar panels that would encase those areas of the building with direct sunlight. Taking control of generating “cheap” electric fuel for the fleet is crucial for maximising profits, as it can reduce running costs by 45%.
Expensive EV fleets could be stored securely and charged overnight at these locations, with drivers ferried to and through to this hub by other drivers using the fleet. The council could then via freely available app technology like that operated by Uber, deliver an “on-demand” point-to-point public transport service, far superior to trundling around half-empty busses around fixed routes, which are far from convenient to most users. Via this app, they could also seamlessly offer subsidised pricing to special needs groups, such as pensioners or disabled people identified by their login.
Creating a “Green Fleet” of EV taxis and integrating it into the local transportation infrastructure, is a positive way of creating “Clean Air Zones” (CAZ) and would benefit lower income groups via subsidised taxis and wealthier clients via a new and larger fleet of taxis charging the same prices as before.
As Amsterdam’s “Tesla Taxi” fleet shows, this is no pipe dream, but an obvious next step for many local councils.