University of warwick science park blog

Warwickshire Firm helps Cut Air Pollution for London’s Black Cabs

London’s famous black cabs are chugging round the capital in greener and more economical fashion thanks to the expertise of a ground-breaking small business based in Warwickshire.

Vehicle Repowering Solutions, near Alcester, have responded to the Government’s ambition to cut air-pollution around major cities in the most practical way – by devising technology which repowers the oldest and most polluting cabs with low emission petrol engines while retaining the novel driving features of the iconic vehicles.

Created in March 2017 by directors Andrew Sanders, Richard Gough and Auke Faber, the forward-thinking company is at the cutting-edge of fast-moving technology designed to reduce emissions. And it chose Warwickshire as its base after deciding that the county offers “everything we could have wanted.”

The company relocated from Birmingham to Alcester after an initial chat with Steph Williams, a member of Warwickshire County Council’s Inward Investment office.

Jagdish Soor, a Business Advisor for Warwickshire County Council’s Economy and Skills team, leads on the delivery of the council’s Small Capital Grants scheme, so he engaged with the client through the ERDF-funded Business Ready Programme.

Managed by the University of Warwick Science Park, Business Ready provides focused support and advice to innovative and technology-led businesses. Through this programme Jagdish alerted the company to an ERDF-funded, Proof of Concept Grant, run by Coventry University Enterprises, and guided them through the application process.

A Proof of Concept grant enabled VRS to conduct durability testing for the new engines to meet the stringent criteria set by Transport 4 London. To do this, a cab with the new engine must travel 10,000 miles (at taxi speed) around London while meeting strict emission tests that will be undertaken at HORIBA Mira in Nuneaton.

Testing is now underway – and it’s all systems go for VRS.

“It is a very exciting time for us, and we feel we have the perfect base here,” said director Andrew Sanders. “Previously I was disappointed by business advice and support offered in other areas but in Warwickshire it has been everything we could have wanted. From my first conversation with Steph Williams, everyone has been really enthusiastic and helpful and Jagdish has pointed us in a lot of good directions.”

Most importantly, the company has an excellent, innovative product to take to market. Taxis are amongst the highest air-polluters on the roads, so a solution was needed to enable taxi-drivers to continue to trade but in a far more environmentally-friendly way.

At the company’s Alcester base, cabs are fitted with brand new engines which run on Liquid Petroleum Gas. The new conversion is not only significantly cleaner but far cheaper as reducing nitrogen oxides by 80% means the fuel running cost is cut by 20%.

VRS has won approval from Transport for London to repower TX diesel taxi models to give the vehicles an extra five-year life extension. Many city centres are now instigating clean-air zones and 63 Birmingham taxis have been converted to LPG as part of a scheme led by Birmingham City Council to tackle air quality in the city. VRS was at the forefront of this project and cab drivers were pleasantly surprised by the reduction of noise and vibration from the engine, along with the fuel savings.

Now the business is set to go from strength to strength in Alcester.

“The premises and location are perfect for us,” Andrew said. “We saw the premises on the internet 20 minutes after they were put up, travelled straight there and liked it. The next stage was talking to Steph and the enthusiasm and helpfulness was there straight away. Looking for premises is not easy, so it was great that we felt comfortable immediately and soon discovered that Alcester is so friendly too.

Steph Williams added: “It is great to see firms like Vehicle Repowering Solutions choosing to come to Warwickshire. They are a really impressive, innovative business which has responded brilliantly to the evolving market and environmental demands.

“Their expertise will provide UK taxis with fuel savings and extended vehicle-life while providing cities with cleaner air as we transition into the electric/ hybrid vehicle market.”