Zero-emission London taxis road tested in the Arctic Circle

London Taxis have swapped the busy streets of England's capital for the icy conditions of the Arctic Circle, in order to monitor performance of new electric-engine versions of the vehicle.

The London Taxi Company (LTC) are keen to ensure that new prototypes of the electric taxis will perform to zero-emission standards in the harshest environmental conditions and are suitable for cities across the globe. The vehicles are being tested in icy areas of Norway and will soon be cooled and tested in refrigerators reaching -49°C in temperature.

The firm aspires to sell the vehicles across major polluted cities, including places such as Moscow which can reach -12°C in the winter months. The camouflaged cabs will also test driving and passenger experience in these conditions, with similar endurance tests set to take place in “extreme heat environments”.

LTC is a UK subsidiary of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely). The Chinese firm previously raised $400m through Green Bonds priced on the offshore market in the Chinese automobile industry to support the development of the zero emission taxis.

The firm’s quality director Wolfram Liedtke revealed that testing would pave the way for production of the vehicles to commence in the UK.

“Our new taxi is being developed with two key engineering principles – quality and endurance, to meet the needs of the demanding taxi duty cycle,” Liedtke said. “We soon commit the product to series production at our all-new manufacturing facility in Ansty, near Coventry. It will be, without doubt, the highest quality and resilient product in London Taxi’s 98-year history.”

Once the extreme testing has been completed, and the product is deemed ready for sale, production could start at the new Ansty facility, which was backed with a £300m investment from Geely. The facility is expected to open in two weeks’ time.

Taxi transition

A survey of nearly 1,200 cab drivers, conducted by LTC, found that 80% of them would support the switch to low or zero-emission vehicles for their work, although barriers over capital and infrastructure remain.

The LTC has already agreed to work with local government to improve the infrastructure for electric vehicles, pledging to introduce a minimum of 150 rapid charging stations by 2018 and 300 stations by 2020.

Transport for London (TfL) figures reveal that black taxis are accountable for around 15% of nitrogen oxide produced from traffic in London. Taxis are also accountable for a quarter of PM10s – soot like particles that the World Health Organisation (WHO) uses to measure air quality – from London traffic.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has vowed to improve London’s air quality by rapidly phasing out of diesel buses and taxis, meaning that the new vehicles need to be able to drive without generating tailpipe emissions. Even though the new taxis are fitted with additional petrol motors to extend driving range, it is believed these taxis will comply with Khan’s vision.

Matt Mace

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