London Taxi Company opens £300m electric vehicle production plant
23 March 2017
The London Taxi Company (LTC) opened a new plant in Coventry on Wednesday which is the first new car plant to open in the UK in a decade and is also the first facility in Britain which is dedicated to the production of electric vehicles. But this good news comes as BMW's Mini plant in Oxford, UK is set to fall behind a site in the Netherlands which also produces cars for the Mini brand.
Chinese carmaker Geely has invested £300m (€348m) in the new LTC plant and its inauguration coincides with Geely reporting a 126% jump in profit, buoyed by SUV sales and the Volvo brand which it also owns.
‘The combustion engine is just a range-extender in the taxi,’ said Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson at the opening ceremony for Ansty. He added that ‘a taxi driver will do 150-200 miles in a day, so the idea is the driver will top-up once during the day and travel the whole day on electric power.’ The new taxi is due to go on sale later in 2017, ahead of new Transport for London legislation that comes into force on January 1 2018, which requires all new black cabs to have a zero-emissions range of at least 30 miles.
Nevertheless, it will take a long time to replace London’s fleet of diesel black cabs as it is not uncommon for them to see 15 years of service. The UK Government has therefore introduced a grant of £7,500 (€8700) towards the cost of the new electric TX5 taxis to incentivise their purchase, with the aim of replacing London’s diesel taxi fleet quicker and in turn improving air quality. It is estimated this will cost the UK Government £50m (€58m). Additionally, the Government contributed £16m (€19m) to develop the Ansty site and it has also pledged £14m (€16m) for the installation of electric charging points across ten cities. This brings the UK Government’s total investment to £80m (€93m).
In addition to the new range-extender electric black cab, the TX5, an electric van will also be built at the site on the same platform, which Geely says has created more than 1000 new jobs.
However, this good news for the British automotive manufacturing sector is slightly dampened by reports that staff levels at a plant in the Netherlands which produces cars for BMW’s Mini brand are set to overtake those of the Mini plant in Oxford, UK. With the announcement that the BMW X1 will be assembled by contact manufacturer VDL Nedcar from August, this is expected to take staffing levels at the Born, Netherlands plant to over 5000, from 4500 currently. The Mini Oxford plant employs 4600 staff. BMW CEO Harald Krueger said on Tuesday that the future of the Oxford plant depends on the outcome of Brexit negotiations with the European Union.