Rank outsider or fairest of the fare? The 10 best electric taxis

Martin Gurdon

25.7.2022

The clatter of diesel engines used to be a given at taxi ranks, although petrol/electric hybrids have since become commonplace outside Britain’s railway stations too, but could both be swept away by fully electric taxis? Mark Bursa, editor of Professional Driver magazine, thinks this is inevitable. “The private hire industry has to go electric. Half of it is London-focussed, and to avoid the congestion charge you have to have an EV. You need at least a PHEV to register the car, but PHEVs have to pay C-charge (at £15 a day). After 2025, there will be no exemptions at all. Addison Lee has 4,000 cars, that’s a lot of £15s,” he said, adding that a lack of on-street chargers and restricted supply of new cars is slowing down this trend. 

Outside London things are less strict, with cleaner, more modern diesels and petrol cars making the mini cab cut, but the direction of travel is clear. 

So, if your next mini cab ride is smart electric car rather than a ratty old Prius, and your driver started taking about it, what would he or she say? (“charges up in no time, good range, you can really stretch out in the back there can’t you? That’s what Jason Donovan said when I picked him up from the airport. This car wasn’t cheap to buy, though. Oi, mate! Ain’t you heard of indicators?!’). 

We've asked the experts and come up with this top 10 guide to the best electric cars to get you south of the river. Oh, and there's an extra one too. Think of it as a tip on top of our top tips.

The MG estate gets a high five from savvy cabbies

MG MG5

This is an obvious choice. It’s an estate, so has plenty of room for people and their stuff, is relatively cheap (from £26,695), and the long range version has a claimed 250 mile range between charges. Oh yes, it’s been facelifted with a front, rear and interior makeover and infotainment upgrades. “A lot of private hire people have bought these. Not everyone wants an SUV,” said Mark B, adding that the MG5 has enough space to rival Toyota’s hybrid Corolla estate.He said that some mini-cabbers have gone for the electric MG ZS SUV, despite a smaller boot and less rear legroom.

Kia Niro Electric 

Kia has just replaced this model and the new one has a tough act to follow. “It was a breakthrough car. It had a 250 mile range (the new one’s is 287) and sold well as a private hire vehicle,” said Mark Bursa. With decent luggage and people space, he suggests that the Niro is seen by some as a natural replacement for the faithful old Prius, and speculates that Kia, busy chasing private buyers, might not welcome this image. This could be one reason why this car is particularly hard to source as a working vehicle.

Taxi drivers in the Reading area are used to Ginny trying to climb out of the window after a night out

Nissan Leaf 

Fast becoming the electric car world’s senior citizen, the Leaf still has things going for it as a mini cab, although its basic engineering has been around for a decade. 62kW versions officially manage 239 miles between charges, but cost five grand more than the 40kW derivatives that run out of juice after 168 miles. The basic engineering seems pretty bullet proof, although early second generation examples had some charging issues relating to battery cooling.

“The boot isn’t fantastic,” said Mark Bursa. “It would struggle to take three people and their luggage to the airport.” There’s 405 litres of space with the back seats raised, and this is a criticism that could be levelled at quite a few EVs including VW’s ID.3 and Hyundai Kona, both of which are making inroads into the private hire market as minicabs

Renault Megane e-Tech 

The Renault Megane e-Tech could soon be turning up on your doorstep with the meter running as Renault owns three quarters of taxi despatching app iCabbi, and will be keen that those vehicles are made at its factories. This ID.3-sized car, with its claimed 280 mile range, could fit the bill well. The 440 litre boot is OK for taxi work, and some rivals have more rear passenger space, but life is full of compromises. Sales get underway at the end of this year. 

White Citroen e-C4X side profile view while driving The saloon-only Citroen ë-C4 X is aimed squarely at the taxi market

Citroen ë-C4 X 

The definition of a niche product, the Citroen ë-C4 X looks like a fastback sports utility but is in fact that rare thing, a four door saloon with a separate, 510 litre boot. Its maker has the private hire sector very much in its sights. Citroen reckons its un-hatchback will be “especially welcomed by business customers, professional drivers and chauffeur driven fleets, where luggage space isolated from the main cabin is highly desirable.”The car is powered by the same mechanical bits as the ë-C4, but has a better range (234 vs 217 miles), and should be a comfortable means of getting about. Charging times? Think about half an hour for an 80% top up form a 100 kW DC charging point. 

Citroen ë-SpaceTourer 

One for the airport run or hotel guest transfers, the ë-SpaceTourer is a battery powered van with windows and seating for up to nine if you opt for a triple row of front seats. The Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life is essentially the same vehicle with different badges. According to Mark Bursa, there’s nothing wrong with the way it does things, but the trouble is it doesn’t do them for very long, needing a re-charge every 136 miles. This limits its usefulness as a private hire vehicle.Mr B said the Mercedes EQV has a 200 mile range but also comes with a £78,850 price tag. “If anyone is going to make a 300-mile EV 7-seater, it’ll be Hyundai,” he said.


Addison Lee liked the ID.4 so much it's bought 450 of them

Volkswagen ID.4 

Nobody could complain that the hefty looking ID.4 is cramped. It’s interior is ballroom-sized, the floor flat, its boot cavernous (think 543 litres with the back seats raised) the range decent -between 211 and 315 miles. No wonder private hire giant Addison Lee sees the VW as a successor to the Ford Galaxy people carrier that was once its signature car. A long waiting list is the reason there aren’t more ID.4s in its fleet. It currently runs around 450 of them.

Vauxhall Combo-e 

This is a smaller box on wheels with big sliding side doors though which the most arthritic passenger can easily be posted, and it can be equipped with five and seven seats. It has a claimed range of 174 miles, which probably restricts it to local cabbing work rather than longer haul stuff. According to Mark Bursa (yes, him again) many specialist cab firms have petrol and diesel vehicles like this converted to be wheelchair accessible, and these attract a discreet client base, but the Combo-e’s underfloor battery pack makes this really challenging. An unintended consequence of turning an ICE van into an EV. 

We met one Newcastle based cabbie using a Combo who said most of his fares were Richer Sounds customers who had bought a massive telly and realised they couldn't get it home in their car. 

Polestar 2 

Our own Tom Barnard describes the Polestar as ‘surprisingly affordable,’ and although it isn’t cheap, with prices starting at £41,900, the 2 still costs less than the range topping Kia Niro at £43,390. Polestar might not thank us for suggesting its premium compact sports saloon would make a good taxi, but its range of between 275 and 336 miles certainly helps. This car looks like a saloon with a boot, but is actually a hatchback, which would be useful for lugging suitcases into the Leaf-sized 405 litre boot -and there’s also a reasonably sized ‘frunk’ at the front. Mind you, this does connect its occupants with whatever the weather is doing. 

The rest of the interior is relatively compact for a private hire vehicle. Two normal sized adults will find the back seat OK comfort-wise, but a sort of transmission hump in the middle of the floor would make things cosy for a third occupant. Really, this is the sort of car that collects you from the theatre rather than the kebab shop.


Tesla Taxi Number-plates Tesla taxis have a charging network to rely on (pic credit: Edinburgh Evening News)

Tesla Model 3 

By a small irony, we encountered a Polestar owning company director who chose the car over the Tesla Model 3 “because every other Uber driver in London has one.” This presumably isn’t the image Tesla is keen to promote (although being taxi makers never did Mercedes any harm), which is perhaps why the hatchback shaped Model 3 has a conventional boot with a small, private hire-unfriendly aperture -although the boot itself is bigger than the Polestar’s at 425 litres. 

The cheapest Model 3 will give you a tenner’s change from £46,000, so it’s not in the bargain basement, but it will seat four in reasonable comfort and has a good range (305 to 374 miles), so will spend more time earning its keep than charging up, which it will do rapidly and usually painlessly using Tesla’s bespoke charging network, so drivers will spend less time mucking about finding somewhere to plug in that works. 

Perhaps this is a reason why even the bigger Model S has its private hire fans. Mark Bursa reckons the big Tesla, with its industrial unit-sized boot and decent range, is very popular with executive private hire companies, particularly on the south coast. Part of the attraction is that early cars can charge for free in perpetuity at Tesla Supercharger stations. Two Model S cabs run by Capital Cars in Edinburgh wear the registration numbers TAX1 and TAX15, which cost £92,000 and £38,000 respectively, partly paid for no doubt by the amount they’re saving in diesel. 

Nissan eNV-200 

This one is at the bottom of the list as it’s not officially on sale any longer, but it’s an interesting tale (and vehicle) so we’ve tacked in on to the end of the list as a bit extra. 

In 2012 Nissan announced that it was to build a taxi based on the all-electric version of the NV200 van which would meet all of the strict requirements for working in London. That included the wheelchair accessibility and the super-tight tuning circle. 

Following feedback from cabbies, the front end was even redesigned to make it look more like a familiar black cab. After the big launch though it became clear that taxi drivers weren’t keen on the idea and it was quietly shelved. 

However, since then the charging infrastructure has improved and drivers aren’t so freaked out by the idea so a few other companies have taken on the baton and started doing conversions. Drivers seem to love them, mainly because they are so cheap to run. But while the 40kWh battery is plenty for town-based activity, it does leave you a bit stuck if you get a Japanese tourist at Heathrow who says they need to get to Edinburgh in a hurry.

Nissan, Taxi van, Front three angles, Still Shot Nissan's stillborn take on the taxi was, er, distinctively styled

Share this post

Click here to subscribe

“Added to your showroom”

Showroom:

Icon

You currently have no cars in your showroom. Browse our reviews here to start.

Icon

Please fill out your contact details below.