London's iconic taxi gets high-tech makeover, retains classic look

Few vehicles are more iconic than the London taxi, but this staple of British transportation is getting a major makeover.

The latest version of the London taxi, called the TX, retains much of the classic look, but features a range-extended electric powertrain. A small gasoline engine acts as a generator when the battery runs low, but the TX will still be capable of significant amounts of all-electric driving. Order books for the new taxi open August 1.

Previously referred to as the TX5, the electrified taxi is built by London EV Company, or LEVC for short. It recently changed its name from London Taxi Company, reflecting plans to expand into other commercial vehicle segments beyond taxis. Whatever it happens to be called, the company is owned by Chinese automaker Geely, which also owns Volvo. Geely provided funding for development of the TX and for the new U.K. factory that will build it, while Volvo lent some technical expertise as well.

LEVC promises a driving range of 400 miles, including 70 miles on electric power alone. That should save cabbies 100 pounds ($128) per week compared to current diesel taxis, LEVC claims. London will also stop licensing new diesel taxis effective January 1, 2018, notes Motor1, so the timing couldn’t be better. But to save money and reduce emissions, drivers will have to regularly charge their cabs, and not just rely on the gasoline range extender.

With its round headlights, rectangular grille, and boxy overall shape, the TX looks similar to previous London taxis. But it features a new bonded aluminum chassis that is light enough to offset the extra weight of the battery pack, LEVC claims. The rear doors open backward, as on a Rolls-Royce, at 90 degrees, making ingress and egress easier.

The interior features seating for six and modern amenities like Wi-Fi and charging ports for mobile devices. LEVC can also integrate a wheelchair ramp and hearing-aid loops for the disabled.

The TX taxi will hit London’s streets later this year. Transport for London, the city’s transit agency, wants to put 9,000 “zero-emission capable” vehicles in service by 2020, so the TX’s numbers could grow very quickly. LEVC also has an order for 225 taxis from RMC, a large taxi operator in The Netherlands.