Grants worth up to £7,500 for new electric taxis must be extended to avoid drivers holding on to older, more polluting vehicles for longer, a trade leader has warned.
The Government’s Plug-in Taxi Grant (PiTG), which provides a £7,500 discount on the price of a new electric taxi, is only guaranteed to run until April 5.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), said it is “essential” the scheme continues.
He told the PA news agency that removing the grants would bring the cost of a plug-in hybrid electric LEVC TX taxi bought on finance to as much as £110,000.
“This would be absolutely disastrous because taxi drivers thinking of buying a new vehicle will try to hang on to old vehicles,” he said.
“It’s bad for us, it’s bad for London and it’s got to be bad for the Government.
“They tell us we’re the best cab service in the world, they give us lots of platitudes about how wonderful it is that we buy these vehicles.
“But are they prepared to put a little bit of money in to keep us doing it?
“By Government standards it is a tiny fraction of a drop in the ocean.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver his spring Budget in the House of Commons on March 6.
Since 2018, taxis licensed in London for the first time have been required to be capable of travelling minimum distances powered solely by electric batteries.
Latest Transport for London figures show 56% of the 14,750 cabs licensed in the capital as of February 4 were in that category.
Mr McNamara claimed increasing the number of electric taxis through grants is “a win-win-win for everyone”.
He said taking a diesel vehicle off the road “improves air quality for everybody”, drivers benefit from their purchase being subsidised “a little”, and passengers get to travel in modern vehicles that are fully wheelchair accessible.
LEVC TX taxis are built in Ansty, Warwickshire, by the London Electric Vehicle Company, owned by Chinese company Geely.
Mr McNamara suggested a reduction in demand for the vehicles could put the future of the factory at risk.
He said: “Are the Chinese going to keep pumping money into it or are they going to pull the factory?
“Are they going to shift production to China?
“They’re obviously going to be looking at all of those things.
“That decision process is not going to be helped if the Government withdraws the Plug-in Taxi Grant.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We’re committed to supporting the switch to electric, and through this grant we have provided over £50 million to support the purchase of 7,000 zero emission-capable taxis to date.
“The grant is committed until the end of this financial year, and as always it remains under continual review.”