EXCLUSIVE: 1,500-car City Taxis in Sheffield unveils £50m plan to go electric

Sheffield’s biggest taxi firm has unveiled £50m plans to roll out 1,500 new cars - and become one of the first in Europe to go fully electric.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 11:13 am
Arnie Singh, MD of City Taxis in Sheffield.

City Taxis is set to make the radical shift in a link-up with French car giant Nissan-Renault. It comes after plans were announced for a Clean Air Zone in Sheffield city centre charging £10-a-day for the most polluting vehicles and £50 for buses.

City bosses say they handle at least 20,000 bookings a week inside the proposed area and doing nothing would force them to put up fares, leading to a drop in journeys. That would harm the firm, the drivers and the economy.

Managing director Arnie Singh said the switch, by 2025, would not just improve the city’s air but its international image.

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He added: “I’m very excited. I want Sheffield to have the first electric taxi fleet in the UK. If we are going for it, let’s go for it as a city and do it right.”

The link-up with Nissan-Renault came after City’s software supplier iCabbi was snapped up by the car maker’s banking arm RCI Banque.

Mr Singh then discussed the potential supply of 1,500 cars on a visit to Renault’s futuristic vehicle labs near Paris.

The scheme hinges on the success of a pilot of seven electric Nissan Leafs. But bosses are sufficiently confident that a public launch of the scheme will be held at the Crucible today, with representatives from iCabbi, RCI Banque and Sheffield City Council.

Under the plan, up to 12 rapid-charging hubs in shipping containers would be installed around the city.

The £120,000 units, which can charge up to 10 cars at a time, would be open to the public and have wifi, a toilet and coffee facilities. City is in talks with Sheffield City Council about their location, Mr Singh said.

Drivers would pay for the cars over a fixed period, but their costs would be lower because they were no longer paying for fuel, he added.

Coun Bob Johnson, cabinet member for transport and development at Sheffield City Council, said the authority would do “everything it can” to make the project a success.

He added: “Responding to the climate emergency and improving air quality for residents is of the highest priority for us all.

“We applaud the vision and innovation being shown by City Taxis and we welcome their plans to move to an electric fleet. The changes will make a big difference in reducing harmful air pollution in the city.

“It’s Sheffield’s ambition to move towards an ultra-low emissions taxi fleet and we need to support this by making sure that there are rapid charging points available for the drivers to recharge their vehicles.

“In the new year we will install 22 charge points with capacity for 44 vehicles. We have been talking to taxi drivers to make sure they’re located in the right place.

“Sheffield City Council will do everything it can to enable City Taxis to roll out a successful series of pilots and full roll out beyond.”

Sheffield’s proposed Clean Air Zone is set to be introduced in early 2021 and apply to all non-compliant vehicles within, or on, the ring road. City hopes to have 700 electric vehicles on the road by then.

In recent years the firm has bought Mercury in Sheffield and rivals in Barnsley, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Derby in what it says is a successful bid to stave off competition from Uber.

Mr Singh, who has worked at City for 14 years, led a management buy-out a year ago. He has presided over a big tech push that has included a customer app, automated phone bookings and a takeaway food delivery service to rival Deliveroo.

The £10m turnover firm on Bold Street in Attercliffe says it maintains a human element, with a drivers’ lounge at its headquarters and customer service centre.