Reading Borough Council has received funding to enable up to 113 black cabs to be converted to operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), helping to reduce emissions in the town. The Council’s successful GBP 368,750 (USD 610,000) bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) for Clean Vehicle Technology funding to convert a significant proportion of the town’s Hackney Carriage fleet to a hybrid gas / diesel system was confirmed by Baroness Kramer, the Minister of State for Transport, on a visit to Reading Buses’ Great Knollys Street depot.
The announcement was made at the launch of Reading Buses own gas bus filling station – the first and largest of its type in the UK. The filling station will power Reading Buses fleet, of which almost 40% are either hybrid or natural gas powered. Under the Council initiative black cab drivers with converted vehicles will also be able to ‘fill up’ at new gas filling station – and at market rates.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The opportunity for Reading’s black cab drivers to convert their vehicles to gas is the latest in a long line of Council initiatives aimed at providing environmentally friendly transport options for the town.
“We have presented this proposal to the local taxi association which resulted in a very positive reaction, from both the association and individual taxi drivers. The hybrid conversion system is predicted to significantly reduce operating costs for drivers and we therefore anticipate a strong demand for the grant scheme.
“Reading Buses is leading the way in this area with nearly 40% of their buses either hybrid or gas powered – the largest proportion of any fleet in the country. I am delighted the Council has now been successful in ensuring the town’s black cab fleet can follow suit.”
CNG has traditionally been used for larger vehicles only, such as HGVs or buses, but advances in technology now mean a new and innovative CNG injection system is much more effective at blending CNG and diesel in different driving conditions.
Under the initiative, Reading Borough Council will administer a grant scheme to award funding to individual taxi drivers for the purchase of the hybrid conversion for their vehicle.
The grant will only be available for TX4 type taxis, as older models cannot be converted. At present there are 113 out of 223 black cabs in Reading which can be converted, but it is hoped that some drivers with older taxis may consider purchasing a TX4 to be eligible for the CNG conversion.
Reading Borough Council has agreed that Reading Buses will allow taxi drivers daytime access to their depot to refuel their vehicles between 9am and 5pm, and overnight access (by appointment only) between midnight and 7am. Reading Buses has also committed to supply CNG at market rate.
Monitoring of the project will be undertaken through ‘before and after’ emissions testing on an evaluation vehicle, and further emission tests at six and twelve months after the initial conversion.
(Source: Reading Borough Council)