It must be something taxi-ish in the air. Last week, London got its first all-electric black cab to test (with rear wheels that steer, to boot), and now today Volkswagen has unveiled its own concept for an electrically powered taxi.

The Volkswagen Milano Taxi concept is a compact minivan with many of the design cues featured in the company's future range of Up minicars. It's slightly more than 12 feet long, and seats up to three passengers.

The electric powertrain uses a large 45 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack built into the taxi's floor. The front wheels are driven by a 50-kilowatt (67-horsepower) electric motor, capable of bursts of power as high as 85 kW (114 hp). Top speed is 75 miles per hour.

Despite the large battery pack, Volkswagen says the Milano Taxi weighs only 3,300 pounds, giving it a range of up to 185 miles depending on how it's been driven.

VW claims the pack can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in one hour using high-voltage charging. Like the hatchback handle hidden underneath the round VW logo on the 2010 Volkswagen Golf, the recharging port is located behind the front VW emblem on the Milano.

Among the innovative details specific to its taxi usage is its single curb-side swivel-sliding door, which open forward for easier access to the passenger compartment, and a customizable 8-inch touchscreen for routing information, credit-card fares, and so forth.

There's no front passenger seat. Instead, that's where the luggage goes, providing a low liftover height just like that on classic London taxis of the 1940s and 1950s (although in this case, there's a door to hold in the suitcases--the London cabs had only a cable).

Its green-and-black color scheme is a nod to the traditional scheme for taxis in Milan. We especially like the retro whitewall tires. The two-tone color combination allude to the classic Volkswagen Bus of the 1960s, used in some locations as a taxi although not in the U.S.

Volkswagen suggests that a taxi like the Milano concept would be suitable all over the world, listing cities that include "Milan, Berlin, New York, Beijing, Cape Town, London, Moscow or Tokyo."

The company also notes that the first Volkswagens are now appearing as yellow cabs in New York City. Which is true, except that they're not electric vehicles. They're clean diesel Jetta TDI models.

Oh well, one step at a time.