New private hire taxis in London now have to be zero emission vehicles, under new Transport for London (TfL) regulations.

The new requirements, which came into force on January 1, mean that taxis being licensed for the first time in the capital must be plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles. Previously, only vehicles less than 18 months old had to be capable of producing zero emissions.

The move is intended to improve the air quality of London in the short term, and in the longer term to speed up the electrification of taxi fleets. Several of the larger taxi operators in London have committed to all-electric fleets by 2025. At present around 25% of taxis in the capital are zero emission capable.

“The taxi and private hire trade has embraced electric vehicles in recent years, with thousands already being used to pick up passengers from all corners of the capital”, said Helen Chapman, TfL’s director of Licensing and Regulation. “Toxic air in London is a public health emergency and this new requirement will act as a catalyst in significantly further reducing toxic emissions and carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to global warming.”

Chapman also said that “drivers will benefit from London’s extensive charging network when needing somewhere to plug in, with more than 11,000 points across the city and close to 1,000 of those allowing a top up in 30 minutes or less. The switch to electric will also mean cheaper fuel costs when compared with petrol or diesel.”

Minicab drivers making the switch to fully zero emission vehicles will also benefit from the Cleaner Vehicle Discount, which gives an exemption to pay the Congestion Charge until December 2025.

TfL announced the zero emission capable requirement seven years ago to ensure that the taxi industry was able to plan for this change.