IT could be the beginning of the end for the cabbie’s staple phrase “guess who I once had in the back of my taxi?”.
Plans to allow the two-seater Smart Car to be used as a private hire vehicle have been approved by councillors, the first move of its kind in Scotland.
The tiny 0.8-litre engine vehicles will cater for just one passenger, who will squeeze in next to the driver with limited luggage only.
Edinburgh City Private Hire put forward the application after a study found its drivers made 55 per cent of journeys from the airport to the city centre with a single passenger onboard.
Both the firm and councillors pointed to the vehicle’s low emission status as a key attraction, and that its size would help to aid congestion.
Private hire firms in Oxford and Nottingham already operate the Smart Car marque. However, the Edinburgh City Private Hire fleet will be the first in Scotland to introduce them.
Director Kevin Woodburn said: “We’d like to thank the city council for being the first local authority in Scotland to have the foresight to license the Smart Car as a private hire car for single passenger transport. This is an innovative approach to cutting emissions and congestion and it’s a significant step forward for our industry.
“The eco-friendly credentials of the Smart Car are really what this is about, the fact that it attracts no road tax, and the fact that due to the size of these vehicles they will help to stop congestion on the roads.”
Despite having the smallest engine on the road, the vehicle has the same power-to-weight ratio as a Hackney cab, and emits less than 90 grammes of C02 per kilometre.
In contrast, a two-litre Skoda Supurb emits around 145g/km and a Renault Espace would be more than 250g/km.
At around £10,000-£11,000 they are also considerably cheaper than the saloons often used in the private hire trade.
While approving the bid, council officials did make one recommendation – to let passengers know of the size of the vehicle in advance.
Mr Woodburn added that after the initial interest in the unusual choice, passengers would appreciate its eco-friendly status.
He added: “Initially I think there will be a novelty value, but once that wears off the public at large will identify with what we’re trying to achieve.”
City centre councillor Joanna Mowat, also a member of the regulatory committee that approved the application, said: “This is a very positive move and will hopefully go some way to cutting down on congestion in the city centre and improving the environment.
“The firm was actually very positive about electric cars, but the charging points just aren’t there yet.
“In the long term I’d be very supportive of that, and it is currently being looked at.”