A few posts back I wrote about the classic London Taxi coming to Sydney – and at a good time as the local manufactured taxis are no longer available. Ford, Holden and Toyota have all shut down their factories, so the current crop of new taxis are (mostly) imported Toyotas. The London Taxi fills a nice gap.
Several years ago, Kamcorp started to test their Metrocabs (originally a square style cab) with electric power. They then designed and started to build “the new Metrocab” that was a clone of the original Austin FX4 of the late 1950s – the true Black Cab – with two 50Kw motors and petrol range-extender engine. A bit cheeky considering that they didn’t own that design – however, everyone knows the shape!
Meanwhile at the London Taxi Company, they commissioned some ex-Volvo designers to create a hybrid version of their TX5 that had a more classical, rounded look from the TX4. The hybrid version again takes many styling cues from the Austin FX4 – the company is the historical owner of the design, having bought it from Austin when they were called Carbodies Ltd during the early 1970s.
The Hybrid TX5 was designed by two British designers: Peter Horbury and David Ancona who melded the old and new very well. Geely who now own Volvo also own the London Taxi Company. Interestingly, it took two years to get this model to production stage – with the real world testing starting in 2015. I figured that this was simply due to wanting to get as much real usage data as possible for the battery consumption.
However, there was another bigger reason: they built a whole new factory in the heart of British car manufacturing, Coventry. Costing £300M and expected to employ 1,000 workers, the factory opened in February last year to start building the hybrid model. Sales were expected to start late in 2017 with international sales this year – so we could see some of these cabs appear in Sydney as the local operator expands.
The Hybrid TX5 has the throwback appearance of the FX4 however is bigger and retains many of the features that made the original so successful. The new internal features include mobile device charging ports, WIFI hot spots and more space for the driver.
It is under the vehicle that is different – the original cabs used a diesel Austin motor and the early Metrocab used a Ford or Toyota engine. The Hybrid TX5 uses a 3 cylinder Volvo motor to provide backup power generation for the full battery system. The company also plan to help the operators provide charging stations in popular areas.
There has been a big push to clean the air in cities globally and the Mayor of London has been very vocal about his city – he now needs to work with the operators to get the older diesel cabs off the streets and replaced with these newer low emission vehicles. I truly hope that we see these vehicles become the global standard for taxicabs so that all cities benefit from the technology, which in turn will help it develop faster.