London in race for first electric cab fleet

London black cabs are pictured at the London Taxi Driver Association in Westbourne Park. (Leon Neal, AFP)

London black cabs are pictured at the London Taxi Driver Association in Westbourne Park. (Leon Neal, AFP)

Nissan has promised that its new London taxi, a van-like vehicle, can eliminate 20% of the capital's exhaust pollution caused by the 22000 cabs. But the car-maker warned that it was now up to politicians to make electric traffic a reality.

London mayor Boris Johnson has pledged that a zero-emission taxi fleet will be in service by 2020, although London assembly members have queried the slow rate of installing charging points for electric vehicles.

The ENV200 taxi will also be produced in a diesel-engine version that Nissan has claimed is 50% more fuel-efficient than existing cabs. The vehicle retains the distinguishing features of London cabs – the "for hire" light and the 8m turning circle reportedly required to drive to the Savoy Hotel's front door – but also has aesthetically questionable tinted glass roofs and sliding doors.

The taxis, expected to be on sale to cabbies by 2014, will be built in Barcelona, Spain.
Andy Palmer, the executive vice-president of Nissan, said the vehicles had a potential range of 320km a day, based on an overnight charge and a 30-minute fast charge at one of the anticipated future network of charging points.

Although Nissan is adapting the same model for Tokyo and for New York's yellow fleet, it held out the prospect of London's hackney carriages winning the race for a fully electric future.

Said Palmer: "Now it's with the ­cities to see who can get the infrastructure in place. Charging is the big question. This needs collaboration with government and the authorities to get the range you need. "The [ultimate range of the] ENV200 relies on having chargers in the right place." – © Guardian News & Media 2012

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