The London Taxi Company (LTC) will launch its new range-extender electric cab in the final quarter of this year, ahead of Transport For London (TFL) legislation that all new cabs must be ‘zero-emission capable’ range of at least 30 miles.
The company has released images of the model undergoing hot weather testing in the Arizona desert, which, LTC claims, has tested the strain on the batteries caused by the hot conditions. Journeys of around 300 miles - three times the average daily mileage of a London cab - were completed.
Next on the testing schedule for the new cab are humid conditions and mountainous regions; these will test the engine and batteries' performance with different air properties, like the thin air associated with higher altitudes. Previously, pictures were released of the taxi winter testing inside the Arctic Circle, signaling that it's now entered its final stages of development. The electric taxi is LTC's most comprehensively tested model to date.
LTC quality director Wolfram Liedtke said: "Our new taxi is being developed with two key engineering principles – quality and endurance – to meet the needs of the demanding taxi duty cycle. We are now nearing the end of our development programme and will soon commit the product to series production at our all-new manufacturing facility in Ansty, near Coventry.”
The new cab will adopt a range-extended electric set-up much like those of the Vauxhall Ampera and BMW i3 Range Extender. The news follows Autocar’s story of a range-extended delivery van, which will be built alongside the new taxi model.
TFL will introduce the ‘zero-emission capable’ legislation on 1 January 2018. Production of the new electric taxi will begin once work has finished on LTC’s new purpose-built plant in Coventry later this year. LTC is due to open its new facility on 22 March following a £300 million investment by parent company Geely.
LTC is keeping quiet about the finer details of the EV taxi, saying only that the range "exceeds requirements comfortably". A final figure will be determined when testing concludes.
LTC CEO Peter Johansen said last year that one fill-up per day would be needed for the range-extending petrol generator. “A taxi driver will do 150-200 miles in a day, so the idea is the driver will top-up once during the day and travel the whole day on electric power.”
Johansen also clarified the necessity for a range-extender rather than a traditional battery EV, citing recharging times and the lack of a fast-charge infrastructure as contributory factors for the traditional battery EV’s incompatibility with taxi use. He also revealed that since Geely, which also owns Volvo, acquired the London Taxi Company in 2013, Geely chairman Li Shufu's aim has been to build an electrified taxi.
Johansen also noted that the current investment in infrastructure isn’t enough to cope with demand, although London has been rapidly increasing the number of fast chargers in the city in recent months.
Johansen believes the new powertrain would go down well with London cabbies. “The cabbies are very very enthusiastic,” he said. "I talk to a number of them regularly and they can’t wait to have a new cab to take the green initiative."
Like it or not, cabbies will have no choice but to adopt the range-extender LTC model once the TFL legislation takes place at the beginning of 2018.