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Electric Blue

Who benefits

Cambridge has a population approaching 125,000, including nearly 25,000 students.  Despite having some of the highest cycle use in the UK, Cambridge has a congested road network. Plug-in Electric Vehicles emit zero tailpipe emissions while driving using their battery, making them the ideal solution to reduce taxi impact on air quality.

The Electric Blue Bond

Air Quality in Cambridge

Like many other urban areas, Cambridge has an air quality problem. The average level of nitrogen dioxide in the city centre is above the health-based National Air Quality Objective (NAQO) level. To monitor and manage this issue, the Council has established an Air Quality Management Area, with associated action plans to address air pollution within this zone. There is a legal requirement to prepare an Air Quality Action Plan.

Air quality tends to be better in the suburbs and away from busy roads than in the busy, narrow city centre streets and along the inner ring roads, and on roads with high traffic levels. The centre of Cambridge has been within an Air Quality Management Area since 2004. Air quality has been improving, slowly, in most parts of Cambridge in recent years, but there are parts of the city, including the busy central streets, where levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) continue to be higher than legal limits. The main source of NOx in Cambridge is from vehicle emissions, so the Air Quality Action Plan developed by Cambridge City Council focuses on ways to reduce these emissions, as well as reducing other sources of air pollution.

It is estimated that traffic contributes up to 80% of air pollution in Cambridge.

Impact of Poor Air Quality

Poor air quality has a significant and detrimental effect on our health. There are an estimated 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK that can be attributed to poor air quality, with an annual cost to society of £20 billion. The UK Government is facing substantial fines from the EU for repeated breach of air quality directives. The combination of these factors has ensured that air quality is very firmly on the political agenda and mainstream media attention has highlighted the direct concern to residents of UK towns and cities.

The Cambridge Air Quality Action Plan highlights that 9% of City Centre NOx emissions are from taxis. In response to this, the plan has set a target of “30% electric or petrol hybrid taxi fleet in Cambridge by 2023 (100% electric or petrol hybrid taxi fleet in Cambridge by 2028)” and also proposes that “any “Clean Air Zone” type of arrangement will act as a further driver for uptake of lower emission vehicles”. The charger network being funded by the Bonds provides the charging infrastructure necessary for this change, directly supporting the improvement in Cambridge air quality.

Electric Taxis

Plug-in Electric Vehicles emit zero tailpipe emissions while driving using their battery, making them the ideal solution to reduce taxi impact on air quality. Equally, a taxis’ duty cycles make them ideal for utilising plug-in technology:

  • They are driven predominantly in urban areas, in a stop-start environment, where plug-in vehicles operate most effectively.
  • Plug-in hybrids or range extended EVs could meet the needs of drivers who carry out a mixture of predominantly urban driving with occasional longer journeys.
  • Duty cycles usually include periods of downtime, for example waiting for a passenger or during breaks, so charging times can be incorporated into working patterns.

A number of manufacturers are developing plugin electric Hackney taxis, such as the Dynamo (a Nissan conversion from ADV) and the TX (from LEVC). In Cambridge, standard saloon cars and people carriers are licensed as Hackney carriages for which a range of plug-in hybrid and pure EVs are available from mainstream manufacturers.

The Cambridge EV charger network

As part of its commitment to improve air quality within Cambridge, Cambridge City Council has commissioned Swarco and its partner, Electric Blue, to create a network of 18 Rapid (50kW DC, 43 kW AC) and 3 Fast (7 kW AC) electric vehicle chargers, strategically located to support the use of e-Taxis, each with two charging bays. This infrastructure will enable the council to implement their proposed changes to their taxi licencing policy, designed to transition the entire fleet to ULEV or zero-emission e-Taxis by 2028. Electric Blue has set a target to support the conversion of over 315 e-Taxis within five years.

The charger network is supported by Cambridge City Council, the UK government (through OLEV) and the UK government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who are encouraging implementation of taxi-only rapid charge points across cities in the UK.

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