Chinese carmaker Geely last week opened the UK’s “first dedicated electric car factory” to produce electric versions of London’s famous black cabs for export to an international market.
The £325m ($409m) factory in Coventry will assemble up to 20,000 of Geely’s newly developed TX5, a zero-emissions taxi, and a number of hybrid vehicles.
Geely acquired Manganese Bronze, the maker of London’s familiar black cabs, in 2013, after it went bankrupt.
Its London Taxi Company will now make electric versions of the vehicles, employing 1,000 people, according UK Business Secretary Greg Clark.
The first taxis will roll out of the plant during the fourth quarter of 2017, in London at first and internationally in 2018.
The UK government welcomed the move as evidence of China’s confidence in the future of the UK after it leaves the EU.
Greg Clark said: “The London Taxi Company’s impressive new factory and R&D facility showcases the innovation that makes the UK a world leader in the development of new automotive technologies.”
The government is spending a total of £80m to support the project. It awarded the plant £16.1m in 2015, and will incentivise taxi drivers to buy the new vehicles by making £50m available in the form of grants that cut £7,500 off their price. It will also spend £14m on new charge points.
Carl-Peter Forster, the chairman of the London Taxi Company, said: “The opening of our new plant sets a number of records: it’s the first brand new automotive manufacturing facility in Britain for over a decade, the first dedicated electric vehicle factory in the UK, and the first major Chinese investment in UK automotive.”
Last year, China’s BYD automaker delivered 51 all-electric buses for use in London. Meanwhile, Changan Automobile is carrying out electric car research at its R&D centre in Birmingham, and FAW Group is conducting electric car research along with the University of Nottingham.