China’s Geely is planning a big investment to turn the maker of London’s iconic black cabs into a high-volume all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles, executives at the unit told Reuters.
The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is also aiming to expand its suite of services, which include cars scheduling their own maintenance and understanding owners’ interests to help them book events.
“We need a mature product portfolio. We need to invest heavily in technology and infrastructure,” LEVC chief executive Alex Nan said at the taxi maker’s headquarters in Coventry, central England. “Geely will continue to invest in LEVC because it is a very unique project.”
Hybrid taxi models made by LEVC start at about 66,000 pounds ($81,500), with batteries that provide 64 miles (103 kilometers) of range, and a gasoline range extender that brings the total range to more than 300 miles. The company’s business has been hit hard by the pandemic and it laid off 140 employees in October.
LEVC and Geely will seek to attract other investors to their zero-emissions portfolio and will seek to collaborate with other automakers on new technologies, Nan said.
The size of Geely’s investment will be disclosed later, executives said. The Chinese group, which took full control of LEVC in 2013, has invested £500m in it so far.
“Geely fully supports the new transformation strategy formulated by LEVC’s board and executive team,” Geely said in a statement.
In 2021, Geely launched a £2bn investment in Lotus, another British luxury sports car maker, to massively expand production of its sports cars and produce high-end SUVs and sedans in the UK and China. Geely is following a similar path in its plans to develop LEVC, executives said.
Britain’s EV ambitions took a hit last week when Britishvolt, a start-up planning to build a massive battery factory in north-east England, filed for administration.
“We need to ensure that the entire UK environment is competitive and has a place on the world stage,” said Chris Allen, managing director of LEVC.
ready to accelerate
Geely owns several brands, including Volvo and – through a joint venture with Volvo – Polestar. Another of the group’s brands, Zeekr, filed for a US IPO last month.
As a result, Geely faces complications avoided by big EV makers BYD and Tesla.
Allen said LEVC is exploring the development of a range of commercial and passenger vehicle models on a common electric platform. It can rely on other group brands that already have EVs to “move forward in a fast, agile way”.
The company already uses an infotainment system and software developed by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish automaker, which has kept costs down, Allen said.
“We can deliver anything in a very short period of time if we need to, but it’s just a matter of time,” he said, adding that LEVC could easily have a full range of electric vehicles on the road within five years.
“But two years from now, is the industry ready, is the charging infrastructure in place, is consumer confidence in place?”
LEVC currently has the capacity to produce 3,000 single-shift taxis per annum at its Coventry factory. That can easily be increased to 20,000, Allen said, and the factory has room to expand. It could also be as dependent on Chinese production as Lotus, Allen said. The average large car factory produces about 300,000 cars per year.
“There’s a ton of value in our product that hasn’t really been maximized,” Allen said. “This is to grow LEVC into a more recognizable brand globally and expand our product offerings into as many areas as possible.”
First published date: Jan 23, 2023 at 15:36 PM CST