London’s black cab drivers have seen more change to their industry in the last five years than, potentially, in the last 50.
The threat to their business model from on-demand ridesharing services is substantial, and new Transport for London legislation this year means that every new taxi sold must be capable of at least 30 miles of zero-emissions driving.
The London Taxi Company responded as rapidly as it could, changing its name to the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) and, with the financial might of Geely ownership, bringing to market the TX range-extending electrified cab.
Late in January this year, the first example found a home, and LEVC claimed it had 200 orders in the pipeline. As the year comes to an end, I caught up with CEO Chris Gubbey to see how things have progressed.
Gubbey claims the year has been a positive one, noting the product has been “extremely well received” by drivers and passengers alike. There are now more than 1000 examples operating in the UK, which combined have racked up seven million miles to date. In fact, the biggest problem has been meeting demand.
“On production targets, it was harder to ramp up than we were expecting," he says. "It’s the combination of a brand new, more complex product, a brand new facility and new manufacturing processes that have put a lot of tension in the system”.
Despite this, LEVC is now at a stage where it can churn out 6000 examples annually on a single production shift. And it should need this - with a number of clean air zones being established in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham in 2019, demand is expected to increase exponentially.