Taxi!

The familiar look of the black cab  is heading for a major overhaul.

British black taxi going green

It will soon be all change for the iconic British taxi.  The familiar look of the boxy-shaped black cab that is such a common sight in the traffic around London and other major cities across the country is heading for a major overhaul.

Timed to coincide with the visit of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Britain, the design concept for the new cab, which will be known as the TX5, has been revealed in autumnal London. It’s sleeker and curvier than before, although initial reactions to the styling have been mixed, with famously straight-talking cabbies complaining on social media that it’s not exactly beautiful. Oh, ok then, some have dubbed it as ugly.

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I reckon that’s a bit mean. It can’t have been an easy task trying to morph an iconic shape into something still recognisable but a bit more streamlined and aerodynamic. The man heading the team responsible for the new shape has an interesting track record in the motor industry. Peter Horbury used to head up the design team at Volvo, so if the concept TX5 has echoes here and there of the original Volvo XC90’s styling, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Interest from Overseas

How come the Chinese president has taken such an interest in Britain’s new cab? Because it’s Chinese-funded. The firm that will be making it, the London Taxi Company, is owned by Chinese industrial group Zhejiang Geely, who also own happen to own Volvo.

The new modern black cab is noticably more streamline

 

The London Taxi Company, with its manufacturing base in Coventry and its sales offices in Islington, north London, has had a £50 million investment boost from Geely to build the new, ‘greener’ black cab. That’s on top of £250 million already injected into the company by the Chinese owners since their takeover last year.

So what’s different about the new cab, apart from the sleeker look of it? It won’t be diesel, for a start. It’s a hybrid, with a 400kg battery pack and a small petrol engine that will recharge the batteries on the move. So it will be low-emission and range anxiety shouldn’t be a problem. It’s being claimed that the TX5 will have enough stored battery power to drive from Piccadilly Circus in central London, all the way to Piccadilly railway station in central Manchester, without needing to stop for re-fuelling.

Built for the Passengers of Yesteryear!

The traditional British cab still has to comply with some pretty archaic regulations dating back to Victorian times, including a rule that is must be capable of accommodating a bale of hay just like early cabs in horse-drawn times. Yes, well I’ve no idea either why that’s still a requirement.

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Rather more pertinent to modern times, the new cab will have a lightweight aluminium body, six passenger seats, space for a forward facing wheelchair, and a see-the-city panoramic glass roof – a first for a classic black cab. It will also have rear-hinged side doors and on-board wifi and mobile phone charging points. It is due on the roads in 2017.

That will be in the nick of time for new regulations due the following year, that will insist on all taxis and private-hire vehicles being zero-emissions capable. Whispering, no-smell cabs are coming. That’ll give cabbies something new to talk straight about …

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Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.