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July 4, 2024

The issues of environmental sustainability and climate change are on people’s minds more and more in today’s world. Transport is the largest single emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and the biggest contributor to pollutants and other air quality issues in urban areas. These challenges have led to a new and promising trend in the form of environmentally friendly taxi services, allowing both operators and customers of hackney carriage and private hire businesses to be at the forefront of combatting these issues.

The Challenge

Taxis have long been a vital part of urban transportation, offering on-demand and flexible transport for individuals and small numbers of people. Because they serve multiple customers per day, they reduce the total amount of vehicles on the roads, especially in dense urban areas. This should have environmental benefits, but mounting evidence suggests that these are not fully realised. Traditional taxis are overwhelmingly powered by diesel engines for maximum fuel economy and range, but these emit significant quantities of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxides and soot-like particulates.

The latest vehicles have features to reduce these emissions, but the evidence is increasingly suggesting that many of the cars’ real-world emissions are much higher than their on-paper numbers – due to a combination of the realities of real-world driving conditions, deteriorating performance as vehicles age, lack of maintenance and other factors. In some cases, it is impossible to reduce one sort of pollutant without increasing another. For instance, many vehicles that have features to reduce and capture particulate emissions have much higher nitrogen dioxide outputs than older vehicles with ‘sootier’ exhausts.


While these issues are intensified in dense urban areas, they apply to all traditional vehicles. Taxis and privately hired vehicles often incur higher emissions per mile travelled per customer than private cars when the extra mileage of the outbound journey to the pick-up location is factored in.

Fortunately, there are solutions at hand.

Zero/Low-Emission Vehicles

The most obvious and dramatic way to reduce the impact of taxis on the environment is to slash the emissions of vehicles. An electric taxi produces no carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide or exhaust particulate when in operation. They also promise to reduce running costs by cutting fuel and servicing bills.

A purely electric taxi can work well in towns and cities where traffic is slow and daily mileages are low, but the limited range and long recharging time are less attractive for taxi firms and private hire operators in more rural areas or who may have to make long runs at short notice. The ideal solution is a hybrid vehicle, especially a self-charging hybrid, which retains the electric drive of a pure EV and has a decent range of zero-emission electric power but also has an onboard petrol engine to recharge the battery and power the electric motor if needed. Since this doesn’t drive the wheels directly, this engine can be smaller and lighter than a conventional taxi engine and can always run at its most efficient speed. There’s also no need for it to run on diesel, so it can be a petrol engine that produces much less nitrous oxide and particulates.

Even ‘mild’ hybrids, where an electric motor assists a conventional drivetrain, can deliver greatly reduced emissions by allowing for a smaller, more efficient engine and reducing the load on that engine as the car accelerates – especially from rest in stop/start traffic, which is where the majority of emissions are generated. A hybrid taxi is ideal for eco-friendly transport in areas which combine town driving with trips to outlying villages and occasional long-distance runs.

Improving Convention

Conventional vehicles do not have to be written off entirely in the eco-taxi realm. Traditional diesel-powered taxis can be switched to running on biofuel from renewable sources (such as plant oils or recycled cooking oils) with little or no modification. The very latest diesel cars perform much closer to their published figures in the real world, and their emissions control systems stay at maximum effectiveness for many more years and miles than earlier versions. Proper maintenance and servicing will also keep these systems functioning properly and reduce the cars’ emissions and fuel consumption in general. Features like stop/start systems prevent unnecessary emissions from idling engines in stationary cars, which is traditionally a particular problem with taxis, which would be left running between fares.

Behind the Wheel

Other small improvements can be made through driver training. Environmentally friendly drivers will use techniques to drive as efficiently as possible by avoiding sharp acceleration or sudden braking. Coasting and gentle braking yield particular benefits with hybrid and electric vehicles since they capture energy while braking, which is then reused to accelerate.

Operating methods can also minimise the environmental impact of taxis, however they’re powered. Electronic booking systems and ride-share apps can make optimum use of the fleet out on the road, eliminating the wasteful ‘deadhead’ runs when only the driver is aboard. Such systems can also maximise the useful range of electric vehicles, making them practical in more areas.

The Wider World

In addition to reducing or removing emissions from their cars, taxi companies can also help their credentials as eco-friendly transport in other ways. These include carbon offset schemes and tree planting projects so that every mile driven also leads to some sort of environmental improvement. In the office rather than behind the wheel, recycling initiatives and going paperless can also help build a truly eco-friendly tax service.


The rise of environmentally friendly taxi services marks a significant step towards sustainable urban transportation. While challenges remain, the benefits of environmentally friendly taxis are undeniable. As customers and legislators continue to prioritise sustainability, the eco-taxi revolution is poised to accelerate, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable world.

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