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

COVENTRY, Britain, Jan 23 (Reuters) – China’s Geely ( 0175.HK ) is planning a major investment to transform London’s iconic black taxi maker into a high-volume, all-electric brand with a range of commercial and passenger vehicles. , officials at the unit told Reuters.

The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also aims to expand its suite of services, which includes cars organizing their maintenance and recognizing their owners’ interests to help them book activities.

“We need an advanced portfolio of products. We need to invest heavily 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 special project.”

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

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Nan said LEVC and Geely will try to attract more investors to the zero-emission portfolio and partner with other automakers to develop new technologies.

The CEO said the amount of Geely’s investment will be revealed 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 out by the LEVC board and executive team,” Geely said in a statement.

In 2021, Geely began investing £2 billion in another unit, British 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, the executive said.

UK EV hopes were dealt a blow last week when British start-up Volt, which had planned to build a massive battery factory in north-east England, filed for administration.

“We need to ensure that the UK environment is competitive across the board and holds its own globally,” said LEVC managing director Chris Allen.

Ready to accelerate

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

As such, Geely faces complications that elude major EV makers BYD ( 002594.SZ ) and Tesla ( TSLA.O ).

Allen said the LEVC explores a range of commercial and passenger vehicle models on a common electric platform. It can rely on other group brands that already have EVs to “go faster, smarter”.

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 needed, but it’s just a question of time,” he said, adding that LEVC could easily be on the road within five years. to have a complete range of EVs.

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

LEVC currently has the capacity to manufacture 3,000 taxis per year running in one shift at its country factory. Allen said that could easily increase to 20,000 and the plant has room to expand. It can rely on manufacturing in China as Lotus has, Allen said. A large automobile factory produces an average of about 300,000 cars per year.

“There is tremendous value in our product that has never really been maximized,” Allen said. “It’s about growing LEVC into a more globally recognized brand and expanding our product offering in as many places as we can.”

($1 = 0.8095 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey, additional reporting by Zooey Zhang in Shanghai and Noriko Shirozo in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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