The new British-made Metrocab electric black cab has started testing on the roads of the capital after being licensed to operate as a Hackney Carriage on a trial basis.
Transport for London says it is the first taxi capable of zero emissions and that "the first few" are already carrying fare-paying passengers in London. Autocar had an exclusive drive in the Metrocab prototype last year.
The six-passenger Metrocab is built by Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive and is a range-extender electric vehicle, much like the New Bus for London. It is directly powered by two 50kW electric motors – which also offer a maximum 1032lb ft of torque - and a 12.2kW battery pack.
Back-up power is provided by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine driving a generator, and the battery pack can also be recharged via a mains electrical socket.
The Metrocab is claimed to return 98mpg and less than 50g/km of CO2, making it "more than three times as economical as the comparable current London taxi". The company claims that lower running costs could add up to £20-£40 per day for London cabbies.
The Metrocab is 4.9m long and 1.93m high. It is limited to an 80mph top speed and has the tight 7.62m turning circle that marks out Hackney Carriages.
The company also says the taxi will be more luxurious than today’s black cabs, riding on air suspension, having air conditioning as standard and getting a panoramic glass roof (allowing a view of the cityscape) and interior ‘mood’ lighting.
The Metrocab arrives just as the tide is turning against diesel-powered transport in city centres. Paris recently announced plans to ban older vehicles from the centre of the city and London mayor Boris Johnson says he wants to establish an ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ in the centre of the British capital.
It's estimated that today’s diesel-powered London black cab fleet is responsible for as much as 25% of particulate emissions. Both the capital’s nitrogen oxide and particulate levels are well in excess of EU-mandated limits.