Move over, Uber: Nissan Leaf taxi fleet is hitting London

While Uber and traditional taxis stand off, Nissan Leafs are gaining prominence as taxis in London. Taxi firm eConnect Cars is adding on to its all-electric taxi fleet of Nissan Leafs.

George Frey/Reuters/File
Justin Miller makes a phone call as he charges his 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car at ABB Inc.'s DC fast charging station in Salt Lake City, Utah. Nissan Leafs are gaining prominence as taxis in London.

Electric cars make a lot of sense for use as taxis.

Taxis are typically driven in cities, where air pollution is often a problem. They tend to do frequent short runs punctuated by stops. And passengers tend to like a smoother, quieter taxi ride.

London taxi firm eConnect Cars has realized all these factors, setting up an all-electric taxi fleet of Nissan Leafs.

Seven cars are currently on the fleet, and another fourteen are joining soon – one of just a handful of companies offering such a service.

A proliferation of diesel-powered cars, taxis and buses has put some of London's streets among the worst in Europe for pollution--so the importance of electric taxis, with their zero local emissions, cannot be understated.

eConnect Cars is based in Canary Wharf, the heart of London's business district. As a private hire firm it's not operating among London's "Hackney Carriage" taxis, but providing commuters and businessmen with an alternative, cleaner way of getting about the city – and several clients are already on-board.

The firm has actually ordered various grades of Leafs, providing clients with different options depending on their budget. Those after more exclusivity can choose a top-end Leaf with leather seating, but those on a budget can opt for Visia-grade models – equivalent to 'S' trim in the U.S.

The Leaf could be a shrewd move by eConnect Cars, too, as London begins to clamp down on pollution-producing vehicles.

The city's congestion charge scheme, subjecting cars generating more than 75 g/km to a $20 daily fee, is expected to push more drivers into plug-in vehicles. London Mayor Boris Johnson has also set a target that taxis must be capable of running zero-emissions by 2018.

Firms that don't adopt early – or adapt before 2018 – could find themselves struggling. And increasingly pollution-conscious clients may push up demand for zero-emission taxis themselves.

Could electric vehicles finally help London lose its nickname, "the big smoke"?...

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