Think of a taxi and you’ll probably imagine a London black cab, so you might be surprised to discover that smart cars are the new taxis in Oxford.
The obvious flaw in this idea is that a smart car can only carry the driver plus one passenger, however that hasn’t stopped Solocar. The founder George Raithby says that sixty per cent of the trips of his existing taxis into Oxford were for a single passenger with little or no luggage – so the idea for a fleet of licensed smart fortwo private hire cars was born.
Customers even benefit from the low running costs of the smarts, which means that fares are around 20 per cent lower than those of a ‘normal’ taxi or other private hire vehicles.
George, who has been in the industry for over 10 years, first thought of using a smart as a private hire car over three years ago when he experienced the car’s nippy performance and manoeuvrability in Italy.
After researching the idea and winning the backing of local councillors, he established Solocar in May with four, 71bhp mhd smart passion coupés. All of the smarts were purchased from smart of Oxford and utilise the automatic stop/start function that is activated during the engine idling phases to optimise economy and lower emissions.
“Sixty per cent of the trips our existing taxis took into Oxford were for a single passenger with little or no luggage, so there was definitely potential for using a
smart,” said George, who is hoping to expand his smart fleet to 20 by April next year.
“Customer feedback is excellent and passengers love how different the service is, the surprising amount of space and the fact that the efficiency of the smarts is not only reducing the impact on the environment but also providing them with a more affordable service.”
George continued: “The smart fits perfectly with Oxford’s motor vehicle philosophy and, because our fuel bills are 15 per cent lower with these cars, our passengers are finding that, for once, the environmentally compatible option isn’t more expensive.”