Oxford City Council plans to install £500,000 of electric vehicle charging points for taxis and to phase out older, high-emitting hackney cabs from the city in another effort to reduce air pollution.
The City Council is working closely with COLTA (City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association) on the scheme, which will see 19 electric vehicle charging points installed for the exclusive use of hackney and private hire taxis. The aim is to install the first seven in 2018, and the remaining 12 in 2019.
The scheme also sets out, for the first time, the City Council’s intention in the future to set an age limit on all hackney carriages operating in Oxford of 18 years and require all newly-licenced hackney carriages to be ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).
Latest air pollution data for Oxford indicates that, despite a 36.9 per cent drop in city centre air pollution over the last decade, nitrogen dioxide levels are sticking above the legal and safe levels in some city centre streets.
A 2016 study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found that outdoor air pollution causes about 40,000 deaths in the UK every year. Transport is responsible for about 75 per cent of air pollution in Oxford.
Councillor John Tanner, Executive Board Member for a Clean and Green Oxford, said: “Oxford has illegal levels of air pollution in some parts of the city, which is affecting the health of residents. Every vehicle in Oxford is contributing to this major public health emergency.
“We are working with the County Council on plans to introduce a Zero Emission Zone from 2020, which will restrict access to Oxford city centre for emitting vehicles, and will go a long way to getting air pollution below legal limits. This new scheme will provide the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help get Oxford’s hackney cabs ready for 2020.”
The charging points will be ‘rapid’ and ‘fast’ chargers to enable drivers to quickly charge batteries during breaks.
The locations will be finalised following consultation with drivers, but potential locations include Oxford Rail Station, Gloucester Green, London Road, Cowley Road, St Giles, Summertown car park, and Redbridge and Seacourt park and rides.
The City Council won £370,000 of funding from the Government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles for the project. The aim is to seek the remaining funding from private investment.
The aim is to introduce the licensing changes by the end of 2018.
It is hoped that the infrastructure and licensing changes will see nitrogen dioxide emissions from Oxford’s 107 licenced hackney carriages reduce by 50 per cent by 2020.
But it is also expected that electric hackney carriages will save drivers and owners money. The Government estimates that new electric cabs could save £2,800 a year in fuel costs compared to conventional black cabs.
Oxford City Council officers have also pledged to provide a range of support to hackney drivers and owners, including helping drivers apply for grants towards the cost of electric cabs, helping operators apply for grants to install charging points at their homes or businesses, and producing detailed business cases to help drivers plan their purchases.
The City Council is following Transport for London, which has announced that, from 1 January 2018, no new diesel cabs will be allowed in the capital.
The current scheme only applies to hackney carriages, but private hire taxis could be included in the future. Private hire taxis are significantly better performing in terms of emissions than the city’s hackney carriages. In 2016, just seven per cent of hackney carriages in Oxford met the 2010 EURO low-emission standard, compared to almost half of private hire vehicles.
The City Council has led on a series of projects to tackle air pollution in Oxford, including:
- Launching, with Oxfordshire County Council, the Low Emission Zone. The zone was the first of its kind outside London and won the Local Authority Air Quality Initiative of the Year at the National Air Quality Awards 2015
- Launching Oxford Park and Pedal, which has seen more than 100 cycle parking spaces introduced at two City Council park and ride sites
- Investing £340,000 to improve Oxford’s cycling network between 2012 and 2016 as part of the Oxford Cycle City initiative
- Using £800,000 of grants won from the Government to install about 100 electric vehicle charging stations in residential streets
Last month the City Council wrote to the Government, as part of the Government’s consultation on its Draft Air Quality Action Plan, to ask for more funding and powers to tackle air pollution in Oxford.
To receive the Government funding, the scheme needs the approval of the City Council’s City Executive Board. The board will discuss the project at a meeting on Tuesday 18 July. The licensing changes will need to be agreed separately by the City Council’s Licensing Committee.