COVENTRY, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely ( 0175.HK ) is planning a major 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 cars, executives at the unit say Reuters.
The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also aims to expand its suite of services, which include cars that arrange their own maintenance and recognize owner interests to help them book activities.
“We need a developed product portfolio. We need to make big investments in terms of technology and infrastructure,” said LEVC CEO Alex Nan at the taxi maker’s headquarters in Coventry, central England. “Geely will make consistent investments in LEVC because this is a very unique project.”
LEVC is building a hybrid taxi model that starts at around 66,000 pounds ($81,500), which has a battery that gives 64 miles (103 km) of range and a petrol range extender that gives it a total range of over 300 miles. The company’s operations were hit hard by the pandemic and laid off 140 employees in October.
Nan said LEVC and Geely would seek to attract other investors to its zero-emissions portfolio and would look to collaborate with other automakers to develop new technologies.
Executives said the size of Geely’s investment will be disclosed later. So far the Chinese group, which took full control of LEVC in 2013, has invested £500m in it.
“Geely fully supports the new transition strategy laid out by LEVC’s board and management team,” Geely said in a statement.
In 2021, Geely launched a £2 billion investment in another unit, British niche luxury sports car maker Lotus, 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 grow LEVC, executives said.
Britain’s EV ambitions were dealt a blow last week when start-up Britishvolt, which had planned to build a large battery factory in north-east England, filed for administration.
“We need to ensure that the UK environment as a whole is competitive and has its place on the world stage,” said LEVC chief executive Chris Allen.
READY TO ACCELERATE
Geely owns several brands, including Volvo (VOLCARb.ST) and – via a joint venture with Volvo – Polestar. Zeekr, another brand in the group, filed for a US IPO last month.
As such, Geely faces a complexity that larger electric car makers BYD ( 002594.SZ ) and Tesla ( TSLA.O ) have avoided.
Allen said LEVC was exploring a range of commercial and passenger vehicle models on a common electric platform. It can lean on other group brands that already have electric cars 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 allows it to cut costs, Allen said.
“There’s nothing we couldn’t deliver in a very short period of time if we needed to, but it’s just a matter of timing,” he said, adding that LEVC could easily have a full range of EVs on the road within five year.
“But in two years, is the industry going to be ready, will the charging infrastructure be there, will the consumer confidence be there?”
LEVC currently has the capacity to build 3,000 taxis a year in a single shift at the Coventry factory. Allen said that could easily be increased to 20,000 and the facility had room to expand. It could also lean on manufacturing in China like Lotus has, Allen said. A major car factory produces on average around 300,000 vehicles per year.
“There is a tremendous amount of value in our product that has never been maximized,” Allen said. “This is about growing LEVC into a much more recognizable brand on a global scale and expanding our product offering into as many areas as we can.”
($1 = 0.8095 pounds)
Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Zoey Zhange in Shanghai and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter
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