Electric taxis on the way

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It may look like any other London taxi, but this is actually an all-new electric model.

The TX has been developed in the UK by the newly-rebranded London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), with substantial investment from its Chinese owners.

The firm claims the new cab has a pure electric range of around 70 miles. With the assistance of a 1.3 litre petrol range extender, it can go for up to 400 miles.

Similar technology has been used in passenger cars like the BMW i3 for a few years but this is the first time it has been used in a purpose-built taxi.

The model is due to hit the streets in October, in time for a clamp-down on polluting taxis by Transport for London.

Only “zero emissions capable vehicles” will be licensed from January, effectively banning new diesel cabs from the capital.

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One of the first new taxis rolls of the production line in Coventry. Pic: LEVC

Richard Gordon, commercial director at LEVC said: “The vehicle has really been designed around a London cabbie’s use. Many will be able to charge the vehicle overnight.

“They’ll tend to run into town on the range extender and then have full use of the electric motor while working within central London.”

TfL will offer grants of up to £5,000 to encourage drivers of the most polluting diesel taxis to upgrade.

:: Rapid charging

Some drivers are concerned that there are not enough rapid chargers to meet demand.

An average cab driver covers around 120 miles per day, according to LEVC, meaning four in five will need to recharge mid shift.

With 24,000 cabs on the streets of Greater London, there will be a big demand for rapid chargers, by the time all of them go electric.

Transport authorities say there will be 300 rapid 50kw chargers on the roadsides of London by 2020, with 75 due to be fitted by the end of the year. That is in addition to slower, standard charging units.

German beige cab: the London EV Company hope to sell the cab around the world. Pic: LEVC
Image:
German beige cab: the London EV Company hope to sell the cab around the world. Pic: LEVC

Tom Callow, from Chargemaster, one of the companies chosen to install rapid chargers in London, said: “I think the taxi will have this great halo effect in showing commercial operators what’s possible with an electric vehicle.

“The key thing is to keep them moving and to do that you need rapid chargers in urban areas.

“We can fit them wherever there is sufficient power supply.”

:: £350m Chinese investment

The Coventry-built taxi has been developed with finance and expertise from parent company Geely. The Chinese manufacturer, which also owns Volvo, has invested £350m in the project so far.

Technology to turn black cabs green
Image:
Technology to turn black cabs green

There is a price for drivers too. The TX has a list price of more than £55,000. But the company insists the potential fuel savings mean drivers will save money in the long-run.

Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief of Autocar magazine, said: “Range is still an issue, charging points are still an issue, the cost of the vehicles is still an issue – so there are hurdles to be overcome but the speed that the hurdles are reducing in height is breathtaking.”

The TX is just one of a number of new electric-powered taxis expected to launch in the UK over the next year.



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