Winner: Transport Award 2011

Highlights

  • Replaced half their fleet with Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles, reducing emissions by 15 tonnes in a year and reducing fuel consumption across the fleet by 30%.
  • After initially being refused private-hire licences for the hybrid vehicles, they successfully raised their case with local councillors and the Scottish Government and were awarded the licences after four months of negotiation.
  • Decreased their fuel costs dramatically, from £1200 to £800 per week.
  • Faster-than-expected payback period of the extra £4000 investment in each car of two-and-a-half years, compared with the expected four years.
  • Contract with BskyB won based on the use of the hybrid vehicles

Calder Cabs is a micro-business providing taxis and private car and minibus hire in West Lothian. As the only taxi business in West Lothian using alternative vehicles, the VIBES judges were highly impressed with Calder Cabs’ enthusiasm for developing and influencing an industry not normally known for environmental improvement. Through their enthusiasm for change and recognising the future expectations of their customers, they have won new, lucrative contracts in the private and public sectors and have expanded their environmental policies.

The licensed taxi/private hire car industry uses large quantities of fossil fuel and has, in general, resisted the move to try alternative fuels or vehicles. Calder Cabs has led the way by demonstrating that hybrid vehicles have a place in the industry and that with comparatively little effort, bio-diesel can be cheaply manufactured from waste products.

Sensing that reduced emissions would be a future expectation of their customers, Calder Cabs replaced six vehicles with hybrid Toyota Prius vehicles. This reduced emissions by 15 tonnes in one year compared with the cars they were replaced with. In addition, fuel consumption decreased by 30% across the fleet, with costs immediately dropping from £1200 to £800 per week. The better-than-expected performance of the hybrid cars, which are giving more miles per gallon than advised by the manufacturer, has also resulted in a faster payback period of two-and-a-half years compared with the planned four years. They are planning on eventually replacing all their cars with hybrids.

Most significantly, they were able to win a contract with BskyB, a key employer in Livingston, because of their hybrid fleet. As part of their contract, they are developing a structured reporting of their emissions which will bring about another progressive step in Calder Cabs’ aim to have audited evidence of their achievements.

The VIBES judges were particularly impressed that the company is working closely with Robert Gordon University to run trials on biodiesel fuel as an alternative fuel. As part of another project, Calder Cabs ran a vehicle on a 50/50 mix of bio-fuel from used cooking oil for a year to analyse potential carbon reductions. Using this mix reduced vehicle emissions by 45% from 153 g CO2 per km to 84 g CO2 per km, saving 5 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. No additional driver training was required and a fuel cost reduction from £60 to £45 per week was achieved. Impressively, no adaptation to the engine was required. As a result of this success, Calder Cabs hope to establish a bio-fuel manufacturing plant in the future.

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Calder Cabs. Their commitment was seriously tested when the local Licensing Board refused private hire licences for the new Toyota Prius vehicles as a result of a problematic clause, even though the Prius complied with all the stated criteria. They raised their case with the First Minister, the Transport Minister and several councillors and got the clause removed.

Their persistence and resilience in the face of this challenge particularly wowed the VIBES panel. Their investment in the hybrid cars was based on a long-term plan to reduce emissions, which is very forward thinking and praiseworthy.

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