The black cab is a world-famous London icon: convenient, functional, and a common sight on London’s roads. Unfortunately, though, their diesel engines are a major source of pollution. That’s why London’s Mayor announced that from 1st January 2018 all new taxis must be diesel-free and able to run entirely on electric power for a minimum of 30 miles.
China has ambitions of becoming the dominant player in electric vehicles, a target which is well on the way to being achieved. For example, whilst London presently has under 200 electric buses in service, one Chinese city alone – Shenzen – has over 16,000!
Geely, the Chinese company who own Volvo, have invested over £325 million in a new Coventry-based business, London Electric Vehicle Company, or LEVC, which has developed a groundbreaking new electric cab, the TX e-City.
Sensibly, in view of the iconic appearance of the traditional black cab, the new e-City is visually almost identical, but under that familiar skin lies a radically different product.
After analysing how a cab is used by its driver and passengers, LEVC have brought it right up to date. For example, in a traditional cab, wheelchair space is tight, so the e-City has an extra 200mm of wheelbase. Coupled with a lower floor, wider opening doors and a higher roofline, this gives a simple, practical layout for both wheelchair users and able-bodied passengers alike.
Creature comforts have not been forgotten either; the passenger compartment features a mains power socket for laptops, USB charging points and on-board WiFi, all topped off with a huge panoramic roof.
The driving cmpartment has been brought right up to date using Volvo parts such as the driver’s seat, the central 9” touch screen and a digital instrument panel, all suitably revised to incorporate specific taxi features. By piggy-backing Volvo’s development investment in this technology, the cab driver benefits significantly, the previous cab being distinctly agricultural in comparison. The new cab also uses Volvo’s latest world-leading accident avoidance technology.
A 31kWh battery pack is mounted under the front floor, which powers the electric motor. The battery can be topped up when necessary using one of the two fitted fast charging ports. Between them, these cater for most types of charging connections. The cab also has a Volvo 1.5 litre ‘range extender’ petrol engine for use where no external charging is available.
Every component used in the cab has been tested using a specially-developed ‘TaxiDur’ test where components undergo test cycles ten to twenty times longer than for a typical passenger car. Over a million miles of durability proving has been carried out, in all climate conditions, with final testing completed last year in London.
The average cabbie lives outside central London, drives daily into the city and then covers typically 100-120 miles of fare-carrying duties before heading home at the end of a shift. The new cab is therefore designed around this duty cycle. Typically, the cabbie will charge their e-City overnight at home, driving into town in the morning using petrol power, and switching to electric running on arrival into the city. With a battery range of up to 80 miles, the cab will easily get to lunchtime without needing recharging. A lunchtime fast charge will then top up the battery, providing ample power for the rest of the day. To cope with the occasional long-distance job, the cab can switch when necessary to petrol power, its 35-litre fuel tank giving it a range of almost 300 miles.
The e-City cab will soon become a common sight not only in London but also around the world. The first international orders have already been shipped, whilst Paris has also recently announced plans to take the new cab.
The battery is covered by a class-leading five-year warranty. However, with sophisticated battery management on board, LEVC’s engineers confidently expect a 15-year battery life.
Although around £10,000 more expensive than the outgoing diesel cab, the average driver should save £100 a week by moving to the new vehicle. LEVC reckon the e-City should at least break even over a typical 5-year ownership period compared to a traditional diesel cab.
Although about 600 of the impressive e-City cabs are now operating in London, uptake has been slower than expected, due not least to the very authorities who are calling for a significant reduction in emissions. While TfL are providing many new rapid charge points for electric cabs, they are apparently expensive to use – 22p per kWh, compared to 10-12p for domestic electricity. Also, the rumoured impending road use charging which could replace falling fuel duty revenue may make electric vehicle operation more expensive. Given these uncertainties over running costs, many cabbies are adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude.
So, TfL and Government, if you really want to reduce the pollution levels of our streets and see all of the 21,000 strong London cab fleet electrified, the ball is in your court!
If you would like to find out more about the new electric cab, please head over to the writer’s website www.autonews.uk.com
© Andy Goundry 15th November 2018