Green light for emission-free taxi fleets in Stuttgart

Internal combustion engines are some of the biggest causes of pollution in city centres. In particular, diesel vehicles have the reputation of being pollutant emitters. A ban on diesel vehicles in cities would have far-reaching consequences, especially for taxi companies. Stuttgart has recognised the signs of the time and is helping taxi operators to change over to electric vehicles.

The E-Taxi Funding Programme in Stuttgart

Federal government:

The Federal Fund (environmental bonus) will provide €4,000 to purchase a fully electric vehicle or €3,000 for a plug-in hybrid.

Baden-Württemberg:

Through the "State Initiative III - Market Growth of Electric Mobility in BW", the federal state of Baden-Württemberg is subsiding vehicle maintenance and charging infrastructure costs to the tune of €6,000 for fully electric vehicles or €1,500 for plug-in hybrids.

Stuttgart:

The city of Stuttgart is promoting the changeover to electric vehicles with a monthly advertising allowance of €200 for three years (total of €7,200), a higher advertising allowance amounting to an additional €100 for twelve months (€1,200 early-bird bonus), a free e-taxi design to the value of around €1,000 and a taxi-exclusive quick charging infrastructure with a guaranteed low electricity price.

An extensive ban on diesel vehicles – something which still appeared unlikely a few years ago - is now driving the discussions. And this ban would primarily have a major impact on the taxi industry in Stuttgart. Because if a general ban was imposed on diesel vehicles in Stuttgart, nearly every taxi would be affected. In July 2017 Stuttgart Administrative Court upheld the complaint by the "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" (German Environmental Aid Association) against the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. Only Euro 6 diesel vehicles and petrol-driven cars with a green plaque would be excluded from the ban. However, since Baden-Württemberg has appealed against the decision by Stuttgart Administrative Court, the Federal Administrative Court will now make a decision regarding the judgement on 22 February.

Irrespective of the decision by the Federal Administrative Court, however, it is obvious that there is a need for action on account of the excessive measured values for particulates and nitrogen dioxide: Just like in many other large cities, the EU-wide thresholds for particulates and nitrogen dioxide are also being exceeded on very busy road sections in Stuttgart. Particulate pollution at the Am Neckartor monitoring station exceeded the threshold of 50 microgrammes on 45 days in 2017. 35 days are permitted. The particulate thresholds are now being met at every other monitoring station in the urban area of Stuttgart. 

The particulate values have dropped considerably in the last few years while nitrogen dioxide pollution is also slowly decreasing. In 2017 only 3 exceeding hours were measured at the Am Neckartor monitoring station, 18 are permitted. By contrast with particulates, however, the annual average value for nitrogen dioxide is problematic. The average annual threshold is 40 microgrammes per 1 cubic metre of air. However, the annual average at the Am Neckartor monitoring station in 2017 was 73 microgrammes.

Risk of a general ban on diesel vehicles

To date, the taxi industry has relied almost exclusively on diesel vehicles. In the state capital of Baden-Württemberg only 25 out of the around 700 taxis have an electric motor. A general ban on diesel vehicles in Stuttgart would therefore hit the taxi industry very hard.

The city of Stuttgart is aiming to change this: with the Electric Taxi Action Plan it wants to help taxi companies to change their fleets to electric drive. This will reduce pollution and noise in the urban area, thus improving the quality of life. On 12 December 2017 Stuttgart City Council therefore decided to put together a total package to promote electric taxis. The financial assistance from the federal government, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the city of Stuttgart can be combined in this package (see the info box).

What vehicles can be considered as e-taxis?

"The taxi business is a very special application area: first of all, it is predestined for electrification due to the long standing times, the short travelling time and the generally high mileage," said Michael Hagel from the Department for Strategic Planning and Sustainable Mobility in Stuttgart. "That's because taxi companies drive a lot, but also spend a great deal of time waiting around. This idle time could be used to charge the vehicles. Taxis also have extremely high visibility and public perception. They could therefore become ideally suitable as public ambassadors for electric mobility and increase acceptance among the general public for the new drive technology.“ However, the taxi industry is also very cautious towards innovations: a taxi is often the most important and sole operating capital while new drives and their reliability are regarded with great suspicion. "Electric mobility must function properly as otherwise there is a risk of losing earnings. All this makes the promotion of e-taxis attractive, important, complex and necessary," said Hagel. 

A large number of manufacturers of electric vehicles still do not have any e-taxi models in their product range. They would therefore have to be retrofitted at great expense. According to experts, only several models can currently be considered in Stuttgart: BYD e6, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan e-NV200, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S 75D/ 100D, Tesla Model X 75 D/ 100 D and VW eGolf.

Certain plug-in hybrids, e.g. the Mercedes-Benz E Class or the Mitsubishi Outlander, could also generally be attractive as vehicles, albeit with sacrifices in terms of the eco-balance.

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