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The Real Reason Why Addison Lee Is Going 100% Electric

Image: Volkswagen

Addison Lee’s pre-emptive purchase of 450 electric cars is a smart move that ups their green credential… and they’ll potentially reap some rewards.

Addison Lee, London’s private hire behemoth, has put in a massive order for 450 ID4 electric cars from Volkswagen. They are spending £160 million to electrify their 4000-strong private hire fleet. The firm has announced that their EV transformation will begin in November. They’ll be adding 200 EV to their fleet every month.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said: “As we continue working tirelessly to decarbonise our transport network, I am thrilled to see Addison Lee lead the way through pledging to electrify their fleet by 2023”.

This represents the largest UK purchase of EV by a private-hire operator, and is on track to make Addison Lee the country’s first fully electric operator. Though this is likely to be as much a practical decision as a change purely for the benefit of the planet.

The question arises as to what other private-hire companies will do that don’t have the capital lying around to buy a shiny new EV fleet. Internal combustion engine cars won’t be available brand new after 2030, so all private-hire fleets will have to find a way before then.

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Every private-hire company has the same homework deadline. Addison Lee is just handing theirs in early.

With the government’s pledge to be a net zero economy by 2050, Addison Lee has chosen to jump before needing to be pushed. It does slightly benefit them from a PR perspective, but it won’t make the private-hire operators look like tree-hugging planet-loving hippies for long.

Closer to the deadline, operators will likely be seen as doing what they can to keep their business afloat. Early adopters, likely those with the funds to electrify early, get the privilege of appearing green and forward-thinking, instead of purely business pragmatists.

As well as ensuring the survival of their business, green private-hire companies are also more attractive to clients – especially corporate customers who wish or need to be seen to be prioritising sustainability. In a survey (undertaken by Addison Lee) 92% of corporations took environmental principles into account when considering a ground transport provider. A senior BP manager said that Addison Lee’s principles aligned with BP’s own ‘net zero commitment’. No doubt this move will strengthen Addison Lee’s profitable corporate relationships.

Where do we plug in all these Electric Cars?

London is well known to be heavily polluted and EV cars are the preferred solution. However, the big question still remains, where will we plug in these battery-powered cars? It is easy to forget that it’s not as simple as ‘choosing’ to drive electric, the infrastructure has to be able to handle it. Otherwise, it creates a whole host of problems affecting the daily life of the private-hire driver (for Addison Lee or any other operator).

Addison is launching a ‘Future of Mobility fund’. It will provide £3.5 million in support to drivers. They will invest in charging infrastructure as well as commendably green projects around London, like their ‘Green Screens initiative’ that installs pollution-absorbing plant walls in primary schools. The firm also announced recently that they will be hiring 1000 more drivers to meet post-pandemic demand.

Addison Lee’s size will hopefully do a lot to push the government and private industry to further develop an appropriate amount of charging facilities. Their CEO Liam Griffin has said that they are going to work with policy makers to encourage support for fleets as they gradually switch to EVs.

The government clearly needs to take on-board the requirements of both operators and drivers to make the industry not only sustainable but also practical for those driving day-in day-out. Successfully building the infrastructure of the future is a fundamental element of the long term “Net Zero” plan. As more electric cars hit our roads, we need to make sure there’s enough ports to plug them in to!

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