Electric black cabs hit London’s streets

Electric versions of London’s famous black cabs are hitting the capital’s streets today in preparation for the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) next year.

The vehicles come with a range of new features including Wi-Fi, USB charging and a sunroof.

The six-seat, battery-powered cabs have a range up to 650km and passenger fares are slated to match those of their diesel predecessors, so users can go green at no additional cost.

They can travel 80 miles on a single battery charge and are fitted with a 1.5 litre petrol engine to assist with longer journeys.

The new cabs should prove to be highly reliable on the roads, having been put through the most rigorous testing regime in the history of the London EV Company (LEVC).

They have been tested in extreme weather conditions in the Arctic Circle and Arizona and have been driven for thousands of kilometres by real cab drivers around London.

London’s new ULEZ rules are due to come into force in 2020, at which point restrictions will be placed on vehicle emissions in order to reduce air pollution in the capital.

The zero emission-capable stipulation will force all newly licenced taxis to employ hybrid or electric engine technology. In addition, new diesel taxis will not be allowed in London, although this will not prevent older vehicles from operating.

“You can see very clearly this is a London black cab,” said Chris Gubbey, chief executive of LEVC.

“However, everything is new. It [has an] all-aluminium body and electric engine with range extender. But most importantly, it’s bringing clean air to London.”

Although the upgrade will cost cabbies about £55,000, Gubbey says it will also save about £100 on average weekly fuel costs.

“It’s not a step up, it’s a thousand steps up, it’s a different world,” said Pat Follen, who switched to one of the new vehicles after nearly 10 years driving older versions. “All you can hear really is the tires on the tarmac - and the wind!”

More than 9,000 electric taxis, or about half the current fleet of black cabs, are expected on the capital’s roads by 2021.

Gubbey’s firm hasn’t stopped at London: it also plans to roll out 225 vehicles in Amsterdam as part of a transport service for the elderly and disabled. A second European location is in the pipeline, Gubbey added.

The company, formerly known as the London Taxi Company, expects to sell 10,000 vehicles a year by the turn of the decade, half of them outside Britain.

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