Welsh factory worth £9.6m set to open to produce London hybrid taxi parts

Norwegian aluminium company Sapa is set to reopen its factory in Bedwas, south Wales, and plans to create more than 200 jobs

Shafi Musaddique
Monday 18 September 2017 00:13 BST
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Lightweight aluminium components for a zero emissions London taxi is set to be produced in Wales
Lightweight aluminium components for a zero emissions London taxi is set to be produced in Wales (Reuters)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Norwegian aluminium company Sapa is set to reopen a factory in Wales that it shut in 2014, where it will develop and supply light aluminium to be used in all new London hybrid taxis.

Sapa is investing £9.6m and secured £555,000 from the Welsh government for its plant in Bedwas, south Wales. It will initially hire 58 people to work in the factory and plans to create more than 200 jobs over the next five years, in response to growing demand for aluminium components in lightweight electric and green cars.

Production for the revamped, green version of the famous London black cab at Bedwas is set to start in the final quarter of 2017.

The first London hybrid black cabs are expected to hit the road in November, with the aim of having 150 on the road by the end of this year.

Sapa, which employs over 22,000 people across 40 countries, closed the Bedwas factory in 2014 citing “overcapacity in the market” and high costs, Sapa’s business president, John Thuestad, told The Independent.

Sapa has never before supplied London cabs. The factory previously produced aluminium components for the building and construction industry.

“This is a good example of how industrial companies such as Sapa are growing in advanced markets fuelled by demands for lighter vehicles and more sustainable materials.”

Mr Thuestad said the move was partly driven by legislation across European countries favouring sustainable vehicles.

The Government has indicated that it plans to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 in an effort to tackle pollution, echoing a similar target in France.

“With the history of sports car production in the UK and the chance to grapple with the iconic black cab to fit a zero emissions world, it was clear this [factory in Wales] was the way forward.”

The hybrid London taxi will be powered by a battery that will have a range of around 70 miles. After that, the cab will be able to switch to a petrol engine.

“Initially we thought we’d support it from Eastern Europe, but we looked at the scope and trends in Europe and the UK car industry with more aluminium and more extrusions, and decided there was a business case to open production in the UK”, Sapa’s UK sales manager, Barnaby Struthers, said.

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