Exclusive: Geely plans to turn maker of London black cabs into EV powerhouse

COVENTRY, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely (0175.HK) is looking to transform the maker of London’s iconic black taxis into a high-volume, all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles. Planning investment. Unit officials told Reuters.

The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) aims to expand its suite of services to include cars arranging their own maintenance and recognizing their owner’s interests to help them book activities.

“We need to have an evolving product portfolio. We need to make big investments in terms of technology and infrastructure,” said Alex Nen, LEVC chief executive, at the taxi maker’s headquarters in Coventry, central England. “Geely will continue to invest in LEVC because it is a very unique project.”

LEVC makes a hybrid taxi model that starts at around £66,000 ($81,500), with a battery providing 64 miles (103 km) of range and a petrol range-extender giving it a total range of over 300 miles . The company’s business was badly hit by the pandemic and it laid off 140 employees in October.

Nan said LEVC and Geely will seek to attract other investors to their zero-emission portfolio and partner with other carmakers to develop the new technology.

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Officials said the size of Geely’s investment would be disclosed later. The Chinese group, which took full control of LEVC in 2013, has so far invested £500 million in it.

“Geely fully supports the new transformation strategy set forth by LEVC’s board and executive team,” Geely said in a statement.

In 2021, Geely began investing £2 billion in niche British luxury sports car maker Lotus, another entity, to massively expand production of its sports cars and build high-end SUVs and sedans in the UK and China. Geely is following a similar path in its plans to develop the LEVC, officials said.

Britain’s EV ambitions took a blow last week when startup BritishVault, which plans to build a major battery factory in northeast England, filed for administration.

“We need to ensure that the UK environment as a whole is competitive and that it holds its position on the world stage,” said Chris Allen, Managing Director of LEVC.

ready to accelerate

Geely owns several brands through a joint venture with Volvo (VOLCARb.ST) and — Volvo — Polestar. Zeeker, another brand of the group, filed for a US initial public offering last month.

As such, Geely faces a complication that big EV makers BYD (002594.SZ) and Tesla (TSLA.O) have avoided.

Allen said LEVC is exploring a range of commercial and passenger car models on a common electric platform. It may rely on other Group brands that already have EVs to “move forward in a faster, agile way”.

Allen said the company already uses an infotainment system and software developed by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish carmaker, helping to cut costs.

“There’s nothing we can’t deliver in a very short amount of time, but it’s just a question of timing,” he said, adding LEVC could easily have a full range of EVs on the road within five years. Can

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“But in two years’ time, is the industry going to be ready, is the charging infrastructure going to be there, is the consumer confidence going to be there?”

LEVC currently has the capacity to manufacture 3,000 taxis on a single shift at its Coventry factory. Allen said that could easily be scaled up to 20,000 and that there was room for expansion of the plant. Allen said it may also rely on production in China, like Lotus. A major car plant produces an average of about 300,000 vehicles per year.

“There’s an enormous amount of value in our product that’s never really been maximized,” Allen said. “It’s about developing LEVC into a more recognizable brand globally and expanding our product offering to as many locations as possible.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Zoey Zhanghe in Shanghai and Norihiko Shirozu in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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