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

COVENTRY, England, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely (0175.HK) is planning a major investment to transform the maker of London’s iconic black cabs into a large-scale, all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles. Unit executives told Reuters.

London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is also looking to expand its range of services, including self-maintaining cars and recognizing their owner’s interests to help them book activities.

“We need a developed product portfolio. We need to make major investments in technology and infrastructure,” said LEVC CEO Alex Nan at the taxi manufacturer’s headquarters in Coventry, central England. “Geely will consistently invest in LEVC as this is a very unique project.”

LEVC is building a hybrid taxi model that starts at around £66,000 ($81,500), with a battery that offers a range of 64 miles (103 km) and a petrol range extender that gives it a total range of more than 300 miles. The company’s operations were severely affected by the pandemic and it laid off 140 employees in October.

Nan said LEVC and Geely would like to attract other investors to their zero-emissions portfolio and collaborate with other automakers to develop new technology.

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

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

In 2021, Geely launched a £2bn investment in another unit, niche British luxury sports car maker Lotus, to massively expand production of its sports cars and build high performance SUVs and saloons in Britain and China. Geely is following a similar path in its plans to grow LEVC, executives said.

Britain’s EV ambitions took a dent last week when startup Britishvolt, which was planning to build a large battery factory in the north east of England, filed for administration.

“We need to ensure that the UK environment as a whole is competitive and holds its own on the global stage,” said LEVC director Chris Allen.

READY TO ACCELERATE

Geely owns multiple brands, including Volvo (VOLCARb.ST) and – through a joint venture with Volvo – Polestar. Zeekr, another brand in the group, filed for an IPO in the US last month.

As such, Geely represents a complexity that larger EV makers BYD (002594.SZ) and Tesla (TSLA.O) have avoided.

Allen said LEVC was exploring a range of commercial and passenger car models on a common electric platform. It can lean on other group brands that already have EVs to “move forward in a fast, nimble way”.

The company already uses an infotainment system and software developed by Volvo and a steering wheel from the Swedish automaker, which can help it save costs, Allen said.

“There’s nothing we couldn’t deliver in a very short time if needed, but it’s just a matter of timing,” he said, adding that LEVC could easily have a full range of electric cars on the road within five years. can have.

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

LEVC currently has the capacity to build 3,000 taxis a year in one shift at its Coventry factory. Allen said this could easily be increased to 20,000 and the factory had room to expand. It could also lean on production in China, as Lotus has done, Allen said. A large car factory produces an average of about 300,000 vehicles per year.

“There is tremendous value in our product that has never really been maximized,” said Allen. “This is about growing LEVC into a much more recognizable brand on a global scale and expanding our product offerings into as many spaces as possible.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Zoey Zhange in Shanghai and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing Edited by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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