London black cabs go green
18 April 2017
Author: Debbie Wood
A brand new factory dedicated to engineering and manufacturing the next generation of the iconic London Taxi has been unveiled alongside first details of the new vehicle, which will hit the streets of London by the end of the year and is set to be sold globally in 2018.
The new 37,000m2 state of-the-art-facility in Ansty, Warwickshire, will be the new base for the London Taxi Company (LTC) and becomes the first dedicated electric vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK. With a capacity to build 20,000 black cabs each year, it's also the first all-new car factory to be built in the UK in more than a decade and has created more than 1,000 new jobs, including 200 engineers and 30 apprenticeships.
New from the ground up, nothing from the previous black cab has been passed over to the latest model except that familiar shape, which was first launched back in 1948. Underpinned by battery and engine technology from Volvo, the new taxi uses lightweight construction and a three-cylinder petrol engine (derived from Volvo's current four-cylinder engine) alongside an electric motor and batteries.
"What you see before you is a new cutting-edge, forward-thinking London Taxi Company, a company developing a clean, green iconic new taxi for the UK and cities across the globe which meets the needs of the population of the modern urban environment," says Chris Gubbey, CEO at LTC.
Thoroughly tested in a variety of conditions, including in temperatures at -25°C, the new cab will be able to seat up to six people and is expected to retain its super-small turning circle. "The starting point was choosing the right technology and obviously it had to be electric because it had to be able to run emission-free, but it also has to be range-assured. That's why we combined an electric powertrain and a lightweight body, but we also added a range-extender, which allows the battery to be recharged while the vehicle is being driven around," says Carl-Peter Forster, chairman of LTC. "We will make this global but it'll be one step at a time. There are also fairly concrete plans to create a substantial factory in China to create a similar vehicle."
The new plug-in taxi will be launched first in London, then introduced into other cities within the UK. After that the vehicle will go on sale across Europe and then globally. The same technology will also be applied to LCVs in the near future in the UK. "This is going to be the future-proofed 'white van' that people have been waiting for," Gubbey explains. "Designed solely for the urban commercial sector, dedicated to the people who keep our cities working, it will be clean, competitive and ready for cities of the future."
Further details about the new vehicles are staying firmly under wraps until mid-September when the new taxi gets its official launch. The new factory, alongside the development of the all-new black cab, has taken two years to complete and none of this work would have been possible without the investment of Chinese carmaker Geely, which brought LTC in 2013. So far, the company has invested £300m to create the new factory and fund the development of the new taxi, with a further £30m pending for the production of the new electric van.
"The London Taxi Company has a clear vision for the future and that is to be the urban commercial vehicle provider of choice, achieved by designing and building products that will help to eliminate city centre emissions and bring down the running costs for the commercial operator," says Gubbey. "It's all built on a vehicle which is instantly recognisable as the London Taxi, combining an evolutionary design with revolutionary technology."
According to Gubbey, more than a billion additional dwellers are expected in cities by 2030 and that growth can only be made possible if the air quality in those cities is drastically improved.
However, one of the key issues facing electric car users today is the charging infrastructure, or lack of it in some cases. If taxis are going to successfully transition into electrification, there needs to be the support in place to make the vehicles usable on a day-to-day basis.
Working closely with Transport for London, 150 rapid chargers for taxis will be delivered by the end of 2018, expanding to 300 by 2020. LTC and the drivers themselves have been working closely with TfL on choosing the right locations for these charging points so they can be as fit for purpose and efficient as possible.
To help get as many of the new plug-in taxis on the streets of London as possible, the Government will be offering up to £7,500 towards the cost of the vehicle as well as £40m invested into electric chargers dedicated to taxis - and the charge points won't be limited to London either, with 10 other councils given access to the funding, although no confirmation was given on locations at this point.
"We stand on the brink of a road transport revolution, a new age of ultra-low emission vehicles that might just save the world," says Greg Clarke, MP and secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy. "After a century when the combustion engine has ruled the road, we need to persuade consumers that a switch to electric vehicles and other forms of ultra-low emission vehicles is both desirable and achievable. Electric vehicles must be seen as a reliable mainstream option and I can think of no better demonstration of that electrification than the potential the taxi has, and not just any taxi, but the London black cab. If people can see black cabs go green then they will know that all cars can do the same."
From 1 January 2018, all taxis presented for licensing for the first time will need to be zero-emission capable (emit no more than 50g/km of CO2 with a minimum 30-mile zero-emission range) and a zero-emission capable taxi must be paired to a petrol engine.