Yesterday, I was given the chance to drive the new LEVC TX electric London taxi, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity. After all, there have only ever been a handful of new taxi models built solely for the capital. A totally new one is worthy of considerable excitement.
The TX is the first electric taxi manufactured by the aptly named London Electric Vehicle Company (formerly The London Taxi Corporation), but it also comes with a back-up ‘range-extender’ petrol engine. It’s packed with loads of cool features to make the ride more comfortable and enjoyable for the passenger, including on-board WiFi, charging ports and a brilliant panoramic roof.
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After a meter glitch recently delayed the first batch of taxis being delivered to their owners, they’ve now started hitting the streets. Until you have the opportunity to experience riding in one yourself, here is my selection of the best things about the new London electric taxi – as well as one negative point.
1. It’ll run all day – and charges in 25 minutes
The TX has a range of 80 miles before it needs to use its 1.5l ‘range extender’ petrol engine. Considering the average cabbie drives 80-120 miles a day, that should be more than enough juice to get them through the average shift. After all, it’s possible to boost the battery to 80% capacity in an impressive 25 minutes with a 50kw charger, so if the car is running low on battery, it’s easy to top it up on a lunch break.
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2. It’s much greener
It might sound obvious, but the new TX is much greener than its diesel TX4 predecessor. It has to be. From 1 January, all newly registered London cabs must by law have emissions of no more than 50g/km and a minimum zero-emission range of 30 miles. LEVC wanted to significantly outdo this benchmark, so they’ve built a cab that can do 80 miles emission free, with carbon emissions of only 29g/km when driven on the range extender.
3. People still flag it down
Although the new electric London cab has been redesigned from the ground up – it’s larger and noticeably different in shape from its predecessor – it’s still unmistakably a London black cab. This was demonstrated almost instantly after I took the wheel, when someone tried to hail me down (even though the taxi light was off).
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4. You’re safer than ever
The old TX4 had very few safety features, but that’s all changed with the LEVC TX. The driver has a wheel airbag, thorax airbag and curtain airbag, and passengers have additional curtain airbags to protect them from side impacts. Of course, in a perfect world, you’ll never need any these. To help minimise the chance of an incident, LEVC has included additional safety features like emergency autonomous braking, lane departure warnings and forward collision warnings.
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5. It’s a much smoother ride
Unlike the chuggy diesel engines of the TX4, the ride in the new electric taxi feels incredibly smooth, both for the driver and passengers. Its regenerative braking (which slows the vehicle as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerators) means there’s no need for the driver to slam on the brakes when they approach a speed bump, and there’s none of the noise or smell that accompanies a diesel engine either.
6. It looks a bit like a Bentley
Okay, so the car doesn’t really look like a Bentley (its black chassis and tall roof probably have more in common with a hearse), but the new LEVC logo – as Pat, the cabbie showing me around the car, pointed out – can easily be mistaken for that of a Bentley. Considering the TX costs £55,000, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have a ride that’s mistaken for one that costs more than twice the price…
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7. You can charge your phone (and laptop)
The new black cab is equipped with 2 USB chargers and a mains plug too, as you’d expect from something that runs off a ruddy massive battery. So if any of your gadgets are running low on power, you can top them up while using the onboard Wi-Fi. Of course, if you don’t need to get anywhere in a hurry, it’d still be advisable to go to a cafe rather than riding aimlessly around London until your iPad battery is charged.
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8. There’s a phenomenal panoramic glass roof
Glass roofs have been commonplace for years, but before the TX, the idea of having one in a black cab would have seemed preposterous. It not only make the vehicle feel much less claustrophobic, but you can spend your journey looking up at any of London’s tallest buildings instead of staring at your phone. LEVC plans to sell the new taxis in Europe, the Middle East and Australia, so with any luck you’ll be able to marvel at the Colosseum and Sydney Harbour Bridge too.
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9. You don’t need to rub knees with other passengers
When I jumped into the new electric taxi, I noticed how spacious it felt, but it’s only when you climb into an old TX4 again that you realise how much bigger it really is. There’s room for six seats (three are folding seats), rather than the four or five you’d see in the old versions, and there’s also plenty of room between you and the passengers opposite. There’s enough space for luggage under the folding seats too, and if six of you are all off to the airport, you can put more suitcases up front, next to the driver.
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10. It’s more accessible than ever
The new LEVC electric cab has been designed with accessibility at the forefront. A new, wheelchair ramp pulls out in less than ten seconds and the wheelchair user can now sit facing forwards rather than backwards, as was the case with the TX4. The folding seat nearest the pavement can also swivel out to help passengers with limited mobility get in and out of the vehicle.
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In another smart touch, the interior uses a high contrast colour scheme to give visually impaired passengers clear reference points. Passenger features (USB chargers, climate control, driver intercom, etc) are also marked with braille, and the cab is fitted with hearing loops so that individuals with hearing aids can easily communicate with the driver.
11. You can control the air con (but can’t interfere with the driver’s music)
You’ll never suffer another stuffy cab journey in the summer months thanks to the new electric cab’s dedicated passenger climate control. After pressing a padlock button (which stops children fiddling with it), there are simple touch controls to change both the temperature and fan intensity. Next to this, you’ll also find a prominent microphone button, which you can tap to speak with (or mute) the driver. Just don’t expect for them to listen to your Spotify playlist, too…it’s not Uber.
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And one caveat…
The one significant reservation I have with the new London taxi is that it’s so quiet. Of course, in many ways this is a good thing, not least because it reduces noise pollution. However, being a cyclist (as well as a driver), it never ceases to startle me when a electric vehicle silently creeps up behind at a traffic light. Of course, some new cars are now designed to make noises to mitigate the potential risk stealthy vehicles pose to pedestrians and cyclists, but the TX has no such feature. I just hope the company doesn’t live to regret not installing what is ultimately such a basic safety feature.
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