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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday December 05, @09:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the blends-in-with-the-soot dept.

BBC:

Electric black taxis have hit London's roads under plans to improve air quality but critics say their cost will put drivers off "going green".

The cab costs £55,599 up from £45,000 for the newest petrol equivalent.

Chris Gubbey, boss of manufacturer the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) insists the cab will "play a major role in helping to improve air quality".

The launch comes weeks ahead of rules requiring new cabs in the capital to be capable of emitting zero emissions.

More than 9,000 such taxis, roughly half the current black cab fleet, are expected on London's roads by 2021.

The £10K price difference should break even in two years of savings on fuel, less if maintenance costs are factored in. But will that make up for lost revenue from fares the cabs can't accept while recharging?


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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:10PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:10PM (#605818)

    But will that make up for lost revenue from fares the cabs can't accept while recharging?

    Cabs will mine cryptocurrency while charging. Cabs will generate so much revenue from coin mining that they will never leave the charging stations. Forget the fares. Blockchain is the future of money honey.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Grishnakh on Tuesday December 05, @09:15PM (11 children)

    by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 05, @09:15PM (#605820)

    If these vehicles are custom-made (which I suspect they are, given that London's famous taxis are all completely unique to London), why would they not design them with quick-swap battery packs so they can avoid needing to recharge during a driver's shift? Drivers could simply return to a company depot and swap out the pack when it gets low and continue accepting fares, little different from having to stop to refuel.

    The problems with quick-swap packs are 1) standardization and 2) having an infrastructure of stations to do the swapping, plus maybe 3) cost. #1 and #2 are mostly automatically solved when you're talking about a giant taxi company in a huge city that has its own custom-made cars: they can make their own standard, and they can put the swapping equipment in their stations. It might cost a bit more, but that's a problem more for private EV owners who are short-sighted and don't care that much about running their car all day long; with a taxi company, a bit more up-front cost is acceptable for making more money in fares (or not having to buy extra vehicles).

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by bob_super on Tuesday December 05, @09:50PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday December 05, @09:50PM (#605841)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Fluence_Z.E.#Better_Place_battery_swap [wikipedia.org]

      It didn't work on the first big deployment, but it might work next time, and I agree a fleet like the black cabs would be a good place to guarantee revenue.
      The design constraints and crash test requirements make battery swapping cars far from trivial, but it's a mostly solved problem waiting for the right moment (like tablet computing was for a while).

    • (Score: 1) by rumata on Wednesday December 06, @04:04AM (1 child)

      by rumata (2034) on Wednesday December 06, @04:04AM (#605981)

      Hey,

      another problem with quick-swap is that these packs tend to be big. So big that it makes a lot of sense to treat them as an integral part of the structure.

      Going with a modular / swappable pack means that you need to double up on that. The pack needs to be robust enough to survive handling/shipping/swapping on its own, and the car needs to be able to do the same. Maybe with advanced cleverness someone will come up with a way to make a swappable pack which shares (driving) loads with the chassis, but I suspect it is anything but trivial.

      Cheers,
      Michael

      • (Score: 2) by Aiwendil on Wednesday December 06, @09:50AM

        by Aiwendil (531) on Wednesday December 06, @09:50AM (#606057) Journal

        Cylindrical channels/tubes for structure that penetrate all the way through the units, use spacers [to reduce risk of stuff getting caught] that also serves as contact point for the batteries, make the batteries cylindrical of a slightly smaller diameter and shorter (about 50cm in length)*. This system will allow for designers to freely balance cooling and chemistry [battery, fuel cell (if designed for high airflow), miniature generator hooked up to adjacent fuel-packs (if designed for exhaust)] and also will allow for cooling in the cylinders themselves. Swap by simply pushing in new units from one end and catch the on the other. Pack only needs to carry itself and the stress in one direction of being pushed (kinda like a soda can with contents). (basic industrial design really - not fancy but it works)

        That will make the structural thing a separate part, also will allow for isolation of failed batteries (cut off the whole tube), and will make it easier to deal with fires in the batteries (just seal off or flush the afflicted tube). And if the car is properly designed (but they'll probably cheap on this) you could make it possible to retube the car as well.

        The issue will be access to the working faces, but maybe make the "skirt" of the car possible to fold up or something.
        Will have the extra advantage of allowing the same swapping-equipment to be used for trucks, cars, busses, military vehicles (and only require minimal changes for electric wheelchairs, albeit at that size you'd probably want a "single length swapper" instead) if the enginneers are allowed to think about flexibility for 15 minutes.

        (* = Look up "candu refuelling" to see this basic idea used in nuclear reactors)

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by mojo chan on Wednesday December 06, @08:34AM (5 children)

      by mojo chan (266) on Wednesday December 06, @08:34AM (#606042)

      Charging is a non-issue for taxi companies that use Nissan Leafs. They have enough range to run all day with a rapid charge during lunch break if necessary, and a slow charge overnight. Even the original Leaf with an 80-100 mile realistic range around a city was more than enough.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
      • (Score: 2) by bootsy on Wednesday December 06, @10:53AM (1 child)

        by bootsy (3440) on Wednesday December 06, @10:53AM (#606082)

        The Leaf cannot be used for a 3 reasons.
        1) London Cabs need to be able to take 5 passengers as well as the driver.
        2) London Cabs require a much smaller turning circle than conventional vehicles. London's Roads were not designed for motorised vehicles, some are Roman, some are medieval and some are Tudor, Georgian Victorian and Edwardian. They are just too narrow and there are some very sharp turns.
        3) By law the boot/trunk has to be large enough to fit a bail of hay. Yes really.

        • (Score: 4, Informative) by pe1rxq on Wednesday December 06, @11:29AM

          by pe1rxq (844) on Wednesday December 06, @11:29AM (#606091) Homepage

          The Leaf may not be useable as-is, but the post did make clear that the Leaf already proved that battery swaps are not needed at all.

          --
          Secure messaging: http://quickmsg.vreeken.net/
      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 06, @03:49PM (2 children)

        by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @03:49PM (#606165)

        Interesting. I would have thought 80-100 miles wouldn't be enough, but I'm not involved in the taxi business so I really don't know how many miles/day they typically drive.

        • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Wednesday December 06, @04:38PM

          by mojo chan (266) on Wednesday December 06, @04:38PM (#606193)

          They have legally mandated breaks anyway so there are actually plenty of opportunities to charge if needed.

          --
          const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
        • (Score: 1) by toddestan on Saturday December 09, @04:11PM

          by toddestan (4982) on Saturday December 09, @04:11PM (#607706)

          Well, if you assume they need to go 4 hours on a charge, that gives you an average speed of 20-25 MPH. That might get you by in New York City where speeds are low and (I'm guessing) most trips are not long distance. In other areas where a typical taxi ride might be "take me to the airport" which would involve 15-30 miles of mostly highway driving, I don't see it working.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @11:50AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @11:50AM (#606094)

      Try finding space in London that is convenient for cabbies to get to and has space to build a hot swap station, I doubt you'd find anywhere central. Charging points on the other hand use far less space. Also many cabbies wait for fares at taxi ranks in busy areas, while they are waiting they can get a quick 10 minute top up as they will be mostly stationary anyway. There is a slight logistical problem of them needing to move forward in the queue, but I'm sure that can be resolved somehow.

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday December 07, @01:49AM

        by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07, @01:49AM (#606532)

        Try finding space in London that is convenient for cabbies to get to and has space to build a hot swap station, I doubt you'd find anywhere central.

        I'm not familiar with the London taxi service, but surely they already have some kind of depots they use. I was just proposing re-using those. Now of course, this could be faulty thinking on my part; if they have all the garages way outside the city and just drive in every morning, then obviously that isn't too useful for mid-day swaps.

        Regardless, you're right about charging points, and the other posters who've pointed out that even Leafs with their small 80-100 mile range have worked well as cabs, shows that my battery-swap idea really isn't necessary, and just recharging during their regular breaks should be sufficient.

        I think it's also worth pointing out that these taxis should do much better on electric power than fossil fuels (diesel in their case): these vehicles do lots of low-speed start/stop driving and idling in traffic, so they probably get horrifically bad fuel economy, much like garbage trucks. Electric vehicles do far, far better in these conditions since they have regenerative braking and don't have such a huge efficiency penalty on accelerating from a stop the way a gas/diesel engine does, nor do they waste energy idling the way gas/diesel engines do.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by DannyB on Tuesday December 05, @09:25PM (18 children)

    by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday December 05, @09:25PM (#605826)

    One way to make the higher cost of EVs not seem so high is to burden the cost of both fossil fuel vehicles and EVs with the costs associated with the environmental problems they cause. Suddenly the cost might not seem so great. Not that EVs don't have their own environmental footprint as well. But if what I suggest is "fair" then if the EV cost is still higher, that would be surprising and telling.

    Hey, how about build the costs of disposal / recycling into EVERYTHING. That way, right up front, you're paying for the full cost of the item, not just it's manufacture. But the end of life as well. It might also do away with the disposable culture of non-repairable items.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:30PM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:30PM (#605828)

      Hey great idea. You'll do away with your own business as all your competitors undercut your prices. Buh-bye now.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday December 05, @10:04PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday December 05, @10:04PM (#605847)

        Those costs still get paid. They simply need to be shifted to where they belong.

        • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:16PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:16PM (#605879)

          Do you have any idea how retail prices work?

          "Buy Now! Pay Later! LOW PRICES Every Day!!"

          Do you ever shop? Do you have all your groceries delivered by drone? Are you too rich for coupons? Do you never buy at discount stores with the dirty plebs?

          • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Wednesday December 06, @12:05AM

            by isostatic (365) on Wednesday December 06, @12:05AM (#605904) Journal

            Do you ever shop?

            On Amazon

            Do you have all your groceries delivered by drone?

            No, by a man in a van

            I rarely go to a supermarket, certainly not to one of those "discount" ones that don't seem to stock actual products like bread or milk, just a bulk-buy of 12 toilet seats for the price of 10 or whatever.

          • (Score: 1) by toddestan on Saturday December 09, @04:17PM

            by toddestan (4982) on Saturday December 09, @04:17PM (#607708)

            Which is why such schemes typically involve laws that saying the manufacturer (or often the retailer) has take the item back for proper disposal, for free. The laws don't say the cost needs to be paid up front, but since that's the only chance they get to charge for the disposal, most of them kind of figure it out on their own.

            Don't get out much, do you?

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by meustrus on Tuesday December 05, @11:37PM

        by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, @11:37PM (#605887)
        From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

        In the United States, the "acid rain [wikipedia.org]"-related emission trading system was principally conceived by C. Boyden Gray [wikipedia.org], a G.H.W. Bush [wikipedia.org] administration attorney. Gray worked with the Environmental Defense Fund [wikipedia.org] (EDF), who worked with the EPA to write the bill that became law as part of the Clean Air Act of 1990. The new emissions cap on NOx and SO2 [wikipedia.org] gases took effect in 1995, and according to Smithsonian [wikipedia.org] magazine, those acid rain emissions dropped 3 million tons that year.[43] [wikipedia.org]

        --
        If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MostCynical on Tuesday December 05, @09:50PM (5 children)

      by MostCynical (2589) on Tuesday December 05, @09:50PM (#605840)

      Capitalism (and, indeed, "Western society") relies on "pass-on" costs. Someone *else* sweeps the path, someone *else* collects the garbage, someone *else* deals with the landfill/buried contaminants/whatever.

      Ship the crap to India or China, let the stuff float out to sea, leave it under the house to become the next owner's problem...

      And, in a weird reversal of normal regulations and laws, *don't* think of the children.

      --
      (Score: tau, Irrational)
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Immerman on Tuesday December 05, @09:54PM (2 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday December 05, @09:54PM (#605844)

      One convenient way would be to make the fuel itself carry the cost - after all the car itself isn't the problem, it's the fuel its using. That's the principle behind a carbon tax. It has the benefit of also extending along the full supply chain, including sourcing the electricity for your EV.

      Of course the flip side is that purchases are very often made based purely on sticker price, ignoring ownership costs - hence the fact that many people continue to buy super-cheap incandescent bulbs despite the fact that CFL or LED replacements will pay for themselves many times over within a year in saved energy costs.

      Building the recycling/disposal costs into products sounds great - but in practice you probably need to build an even higher cost in, so that consumers can get a big enough "proper disposal rebate" to motivate them to do so. Recycling most things is already approximately free, even slightly profitable, in most cities in the US - and yet landfills continue to fill with recyclable materials.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday December 05, @10:06PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday December 05, @10:06PM (#605849)

        I like.


        While I have total mastery over a few subjects,
        Trump shows complete mystery over a lot of subjects!

      • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Tuesday December 05, @11:58PM

        by isostatic (365) on Tuesday December 05, @11:58PM (#605900) Journal

        We do this in the UK -- fuel prices for "regular" unleaded petrol is currently about £1.20 a litre, or about $6 per US Gallon. I believe current US prices are about $2.50.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 06, @12:05AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:05AM (#605903) Journal

      Hey, how about build the costs of disposal / recycling into EVERYTHING.

      Why? What would that solve? Its a serious question. You haven't thought through the economics here.

      You would propose then to pay the highest price possible for disposal/recycle, well in excess of the actual cost of such services (because technology will bring the cost down in the meantime, and the price of recovered materials is only going to rise over time).

      Everything except the puke smell in a Taxi is recyclable. Especially the batteries, which can be "mined" for all sorts of metals, the motors may need new bearings and brushes (are those even used?) to be ready for re-use or recycled for the metal.

      Toyota already has in place a blanket $200 offer on the worst condition battery packs for old Prius cars. Problem is, the damn things just won't die. And even after they leave auto service they find their way into energy storage use that is less demanding. Because of position in the car, Prius batteries usually survive crashes. Its the Least often replaced part on a Prius, and you never have to buy at factory price because scrap yards will sell them to you for half or a third of that price.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 06, @03:55PM

        by Grishnakh (2831) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @03:55PM (#606166)

        the motors may need new bearings and brushes (are those even used?)

        No, of course not. No one uses brushed motors for anything these days. Even consumer-grade cordless power tools at Home Depot are advertising brushless motors right on the package. Brushed motors are completely obsolete thanks to high-density and inexpensive power electronics: it just doesn't cost much to make a BLDC motor controller. Even simple little fans in your PC use brushless motors.

        Toyota already has in place a blanket $200 offer on the worst condition battery packs for old Prius cars. Problem is, the damn things just won't die.

        They do die: individual cells go bad over time, or (this might be only on older units) they have corrosion problems with some of the connections. But there's YouTube videos showing how to rebuild your Prius batteries, so I imagine there's specialists out there who buy up the bad (or partial-capacity) battery packs and rebuild them for resale, since brand-new ones from the manufacturer cost an absolute fortune.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @10:22AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @10:22AM (#606066)

      Here in Switzerland, a small disposal fee is by law built into the price of any new domestic electronic apparatus.

      When you have finished with your old computer/radio/steam iron you can just take it back to ANY electronics shop and they are obliged to dispose of it for you, gratis (as the disposal fee was already paid up front when you bought it all those years ago).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:38PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @09:38PM (#605832)

    Is that a new colour?

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday December 05, @10:08PM

      by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday December 05, @10:08PM (#605850)

      Quick, what is the hex code for "arrest me red" that some expensive high performance cars come in?

      Then there is Azure. A shade of blue. The color of blue smoke belched by a dying engine that is trying to keep running.

  • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Wednesday December 06, @12:02AM (4 children)

    by isostatic (365) on Wednesday December 06, @12:02AM (#605902) Journal

    Meh, I'll continue to use uber like normal people. Only rich businessmen use black cabs, it's a way to use the ZiL lanes to get around faster.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by BasilBrush on Wednesday December 06, @05:04AM (1 child)

    by BasilBrush (3994) on Wednesday December 06, @05:04AM (#605993)

    There are no lost fares whilst recharging. It's a plugin hybrid. It'll go as far as they like. It'll just use more petrol. They can charge it overnight, and perhaps top up when they are having lunch. But there's no need to stop just because there's no electric left.

    --
    Hurrah! Quoting works now!
    • (Score: 2) by aclarke on Wednesday December 06, @06:25PM

      by aclarke (2049) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @06:25PM (#606256) Homepage

      Yeah, the range thing isn't really a problem now, and it will be solved when it becomes a big enough issue.

      OK, there aren't enough chargers scattered around London, yet, to charge all the taxis at the same time. Boo hoo. They're being added, and they'll add more as long as more are needed. If London can add more chargers and get fewer petrol-miles driven per year, they're going to do that as they're aggressively working to remove pollution and emissions from the city centre.

      With enough charging points, cab drivers are going to use them. Electricity is way cheaper than petrol. With an app and queuing system in place, a driver can charge locally for 10 minutes while waiting for their next fare, taking a bio break, whatever. If someone else comes up behind, the person with a lower charge, takes priority, or whatever it takes for people to not hog charging stations.

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