The importance of the taxi community in the drive for change

Electric Blue was founded by Alex Calnan, after he realised that the electric vehicle (EV) industry faced greater barriers, in terms of a significant lack of infrastructure, combined with poor EV awareness. Thus, the aim of operating and installing electric charger networks, as well as engaging with fleet operators to help grow their EV understanding, become Electric Blue’s true goal.

Central and local government are committed to the task of reducing harmful transport emissions, and a lot of the pressure lies heavily on public transport solutions, with individual drivers in the headlights. With the government’s newly announced target for net zero emissions by 2050, the race to find practical and accessible solutions is accelerating, and our aim is to make sure that drivers, businesses, and local authorities don’t get left behind. At Electric Blue, we work alongside the public sector, businesses, fleet managers, and individual drivers – primarily taxi drivers. But just why do we focus so much of our attention, and our air quality solutions, on the taxi community?

Green Cab

Championing low emissions in the taxi community

Taxi drivers are at the forefront of the drive towards more sustainable transport options, and have faced much of the backlash from newly imposed government policies. Is it fair for individual drivers to assume the responsibility of air pollution, whilst they are simply trying to perform their job?

That well-loved ‘cabbie chat’

Taxis are highly visible, with taxi drivers a well-loved community cruising our roads. We’ve all shared a late-night conversation as we’ve journeyed home after a long day out, or an early morning chat on our way to the airport. Of course, the conversation is even more exciting (or maybe it’s just for us!) when we find the taxi driver is an EV enthusiast, or is thinking about making the transition to electric.

Taking a zero-emissions journey as a passenger offers an excellent commitment-free opportunity for members of the general public to experience the clean and smooth driving experience of an EV. If a taxi driver is engaged and passionate about the benefits of such a vehicle, a taxi journey also offers the space and time for drivers to advocate for the ways in which their profession, and the entire community of taxi drivers, are working hard towards an environmentally-beneficial solution.

Visible, accessible, everywhere

Taxis are visible, accessible, and a well-known public transport option. If an EV can work for a taxi driver, does that mean it could also work for me? These are the benefits, and the opportunities which are arising, when we engage with taxi drivers across the country. They offer a firsthand look at alternative transport solutions, and enable individuals to consider how they too, might be able to contribute to cleaner air.

The hidden dangers of taxi driving

A recent study conducted by King’s College London has changed the way we may think about air pollution from transport emissions, and exactly how it affects us when travelling by road. For many people, commuting to and from work exposes us to one or two hours of transport emissions per day. For those who drive professionally, the time, and therefore levels of exposure is much greater. The Environmental Research Group at King’s studied various professional drivers to measure their pollution levels; including taxi drivers, waste removal, and emergency services.

Whilst professional drivers (in general) were exposed to four times higher pollution levels than when driving at home, taxi drivers recorded the highest levels of all. Taxi drivers are exposed to (6.5 µg/m³) of black carbon, this is more than double the level of pollution measured at one of London’s busiest roads (3.1 µg/m³). With changes in respiratory health occurring at levels as low as 1 µg/m³, we can begin to comprehend that taxi drivers are at a far greater risk of developing serious respiratory health problems, simply due to their professional environment.

So why are taxi drivers exposed to higher levels of air pollution? And surely, they are safer being inside their vehicle than outside? Despite common misconception, being inside a vehicle does not protect you from pollutants in the air outside. In fact, the air inside your vehicle quickly accumulates high numbers of harmful pollutants, especially as drivers move across heavily congested and polluted urban areas, such as in London. Add to this the frequent stopping to drop-off and collect passengers, long hours spent circling busy zones, and taxi drivers are among the most vulnerable to air pollution consequences.

Is there a solution?

Obviously, it is not the sole responsibility of taxi drivers to solve the air pollution crisis. Rather, we need to see industrial, governmental, and societal change which will accelerate us towards an emissions-free future, and a healthier environment for all.

In the meantime, there are a few short-term fixes which professional drivers can employ to ensure they are reducing their exposure to pollutants; such as keeping windows closed, avoiding tunnels, and maintaining an air-tight cab. Even better, a move away from petrol and diesel vehicles, towards sustainable, low or zero emissions vehicles will remove further pollutants from drivers’ immediate environments. For many taxi drivers, the opportunity to transition to an EV also offers them a chance to make a positive contribution to the environment, whilst maintaining their unique profession. We are not asking taxi drivers to stop driving, or remove their vehicles from the roads, but offering a solution to the crucial issue of transport emissions, which brings benefits to both the environment, and the driver.

Check out what some of our partners are doing to support their taxi communities through Electrify City campaigns.

Date: 12/12/2019