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

Exclusive: Geely plans to turn maker of London black cabs into EV powerhouse
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COVENTRY, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely (0175.HK) The maker of London’s iconic black taxi is planning a major investment to turn it into a high-volume, all-electric brand for commercial and passenger vehicles, unit executives told Reuters.

The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also aims to expand its suite of services, which include letting the cars arrange their own maintenance and recognizing their owner’s interest to help book their activities.

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

LEVC makes a hybrid taxi model that starts at around 66,000 pounds ($81,500), with a battery that provides a range of 64 miles (103 km) and a gasoline range-extender that gives it a range of more than 300 miles. The company’s business was hit hard by the pandemic and it laid off 140 workers in October.

Nan said LEVC and Geely will seek to attract other investors to its zero-emission portfolio and look at partnerships with other carmakers to develop new technologies.

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

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

In 2021, Geely launched a £2bn investment in another unit to vastly expand its sports car production and build high-end SUVs and sedans in Britain and China, notably British luxury sports carmaker Lotus. Geely is following a similar path in LEVC growth plans, executives said.

Britain’s EV ambitions suffered a setback last week when startup BritishVolt, which planned to build a large battery factory in northeast England, Filed for administration.

“We need to ensure that the UK environment as a whole is competitive and has a place on the world stage,” said LEVC managing director Chris Allen.

Ready to accelerate

Geely owns multiple brands including Volvo (DUMPb.ST) And – Volvo – through a joint venture with Polestar. Zeekr, another brand of the group, filed for a US initial public offering last month.

As such, Geely faces a complication that larger EV maker BYD (002594.SZ) And Tesla (TSLA.O) avoided

Allen said LEVC is exploring a range of commercial and passenger vehicle models on a common electric platform. It could also lean on other group brands that already have EVs to “move fast, agile.”

The company already uses an infotainment system and software made by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish automaker, allowing it to cut costs, Allen said.

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

“But in two years, 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 a year in a single shift at its Coventry factory. Allen said it could easily be increased to 20,000 and the plant has room to expand. Like Lotus, it could also shift to manufacturing in China, Allen said. A major car factory produces an average of about 300,000 cars per year.

“There’s a lot of value in our product that hasn’t really been maximized,” Allen said. “It’s all about making LEVC a more recognized brand globally and expanding our product offering to as many places as we can.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Joe Zhang in Shanghai and editing by Norihiko Shirozu Mark Potter in Beijing

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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