Taxi firm Uber has announced plans to invest in a network of rapid chargers in London after a pilot scheme involving electric vehicles (EVs).
A six-month trial of EVs by at least 50 Uber drivers in London found that there is enthusiasm to continue operating the vehicles but frustration at the challenges in accessing charging – and particularly rapid charging – facilities in the capital.
Uber introduced the first 50 EVs, made up of Nissan Leafs, Tesla and China’s BYD models, into its rental fleet last August, as part of a trial supported by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) to explore the practicality of a large-scale EV private-hire transport system in the UK.
The results of the trial showed that based on more than 35,000 EV journeys carried out, when comparing the EVs to hybrid vehicles (which account for 60% of Uber’s journeys in London) the trial saved more than half a metric tonne of nitrogen oxide and 22 metric tonnes of CO2 during the trial.
In a further partnership with Nissan, Uber has announced that an additional 100 Leafs will join its London fleet.
Commenting on the trial Alan Clarke of Uber said. “The key thing we’ve found [when rolling out EVs] revolves around the charging infrastructure.
“At the moment, there are three publicly-accessible rapid chargers for private-hire drivers in central London, and that is just woefully inadequate in terms of being able to support the number of EV hires you’d need in order to generate a big switch away from conventional cars.”
Clarke added: “Our relationship with TfL [Transport for London] in regards to EVs is absolutely fine. They’re interested to hear from the industry about charging, but we feel that the plans for the number of rapid chargers for the use of private hire vehicles are a little on the low side and TfL needs to be much bolder.”
He said Uber will spend the next five to 10 years looking to increase the share of low-emission vehicles in its fleet, concluding that a “significant advancement” would be needed in UK infrastructure to create an environment where private hire firms could switch to 100% low-emission vehicles.
To overcome the recharging barrier, Uber has announced it will invest in a network of 50kW rapid chargers in central London. These chargers will only be available for Uber users at first, and the Uber app has been edited to allow EV drivers to circulate trips surrounding nearby chargers.
The charge points should be able to provide up to 80% of battery life in less than an hour. The company hopes the planned charging network will be up and running in a few months.