'It's looking bleak' - City taxi firms respond to panic-buying at the pumps

ABC Taxis lost 80pc of passengers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Sonya Duncan

ABC Taxis lost 80pc of passengers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norwich's electric car guru says he has been inundated with requests from taxi firm owners to turn their fleets green as motorists continue to queue at the pumps. 

Leon Davies, of Norwich, said “the banter has been flying” between drivers who have already gone electric and those fretting about where their next tank of fuel will come from. 

But he added that there was also a serious side too and may mean more car owners looking towards purchasing electric vehicles (EV). 

Leon Davies, Director, left with Ashley Peacock, Operations Manager, right, from Zero Taxi with thei

(Left to right) Leon Davies, with Zero Taxis - now ABC Zero - co-founder Ashley Peacock - Credit: Archant

Mr Davies, a sustainable energy consultant, said: “I’m in two EV groups online and we’ve had a bit of banter, but also the situation is a bit sad because there are key workers that need to get to work but people have knee-jerked, as sometimes happens.” 

A former RAF airman, Mr Davies swapped the cockpit for the driver's seat to pioneer an eco-friendly taxi firm in 2018. 

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The company Zero Taxis was founded by Mr Davies and Ashley Peacock, who saw a gap in the market for a 100pc electric taxi company. 

It became Norfolk's first and only zero-emissions taxi firm and in 2019 it was bought out by a competitor, fellow Norwich firm ABC Taxis. 

The buyout saw the former fleet rebranded as ABC Zero. 

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ABC Taxis already has a number of hybrid vehicles, include 15 EV, and is hoping to graduate its entire fleet of more than 240 to be hybrid or electric in the future, with a complete move to electric by 2024. 

Mr Davies said the industry needed to prepare for a big change. 

“I’ve had 29 messages over the weekend asking about the electrification of taxis around the UK,” he said. “Although it’s been a bit slower coming in Norfolk, it’s been coming for a while. 

“Norfolk is quite a special place and ABC is undertaking a huge investment. We were waiting for the infrastructure, and it's now coming.” 

The infrastructure Mr Davies referred to was the approval of plans put to Broadland District Council by sustainable power firm Gridserve to build a new EV forecourt on the Broadland Gate Business Park, near the Northern Distributor Road at Postwick. 

The Norwich site, also called the Broadland Northway, will feature 34 high-speed charging bays, a coffee shop, convenience store, and an airport-style lounge with high-speed wifi, and is set to be completed in December. 

The 34 bays include 12 ultra-rapid, 12 rapid, eight branded and two HGV chargers – offering less than 30-minute charge times. 

He added: “Things happen for a reason in some ways, good or bad. But the panic-buying has very much made people think.” 

He also revealed that EV owners had come forward via social media to offer support by giving free lifts to key workers who were unable to get to work. 

“It was like when we had the Beast from the East and Land Rover and tractor drivers offered to help people keep moving.” 

And while the future of EV may be looking bright, ABC Taxis marketing manager Chris Harvey warned that things were looking “bleak” following the panic-buying of fuel over the weekend. 

ABC Taxis marketing manager Chris Harvey, second from left, said passenger numbers are now back on t

ABC Taxis marketing manager Chris Harvey, pictured second from left - Credit: Sonya Duncan

“We have seen the number of people using taxis drop over the weekend,” he said. 

“The situation is starting to look bleak as our drivers are now beginning to face the same problems as every other driver.” 

ABC Taxis are offering 20% off to key workers. Picture: ABC Taxis

ABC Taxis all in a row - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile, residents in Norwich also had their say on the pros and cons of having an EV:  

Francis Chennell said: “I have family members who have electric cars and they say they are a million times cheaper to run than petrol or diesel.”

Eloise O'Hare added that having an electric cycle was also cheaper to run: “They are great at 8p to 10p per mile.”

Jan McGregor leases an EV through the Motability Scheme and plugs it in about once a month at a cost of around £5.

She said: “I'm not missing my petrol car at all at the moment.”  

And local actor Matt Long, also got involved with the discussion, claiming that research showed EV may be better for short journeys rather than longer drives.

“Wasn't it Guy Martin who recently confirmed [this]?  

“His road test confirmed it cost more to charge than using a diesel car as you have to pay a premium for the superfast chargers. Then there was the issue of getting to charge point and finding they are not working. 

“Infrastructure simply isn't ready yet for mass consumption. I'll stick to my zero-road tax diesel car for now.” 

  • For companies wanting to find out more about switching to EV, you can find out more information on Mr Davies’s website www.leondavies.co.uk

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