London has some of the worst inner-city pollution of any city in Europe, but legislators and automakers are now working hard to correct that.
Among them is Metrocab, a company that purpose-builds taxis for the city--and its latest product, a range-extended electric cab, is drawing praise from drivers and London's Mayor alike.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson is never one to mince his words, but describes the new cab as "a masterpiece...the Rolls-Royce of taxis".
He would say that of course--he recently set a target that all of London's taxis have to be capable of zero-emission running by 2018.
But members from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) agree with him--describing the new cab as "smooth" and "quiet", and perfect for London's future.
Virtually all of London's 'Hackney Carriage' black cabs--as iconic in the city as red buses and the Houses of Parliament--are powered by diesel engines.
Diesel particulates play a big part in London's pollution problems, but for drivers and passengers they aren't that pleasant either--the typical taxi is neither as quiet nor refined as the diesel engines many passenger cars use today.
Instead, they err more on the side of reliability and ruggedness, designed for hundreds of thousands of miles of tough city use. Great for reducing costs, not so great for London's environment.
"The worst thing about sitting in London traffic is sitting alongside noisy buses and diesel cars" explains Steve McNamara, General Secretary at the LTDA. "I’m a great fan of [electric vehicles] and I think they are the future" he adds.
LCDC Chairman Grant Davis agreed, along with several taxi drivers present at the test drive event. "Our members drove it today and everyone said they were impressed, amazingly impressed" he said.
The drivers' views echo those of New York's cabbies, who've offered plenty of positive comments on the Nissan Leaf test fleet started last year.
There, one driver even said he was earning higher tips, thanks to the Leaf's smooth, quiet ride.
Engineered by Frazer-Nash, the new Metrocab uses a 1-liter gasoline engine as a range-extending unit, alongsidea 12.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
No performance figures have been announced, but as the video shows, drivers have plenty of low-down power to work with--and a high top speed is unnecessary in vehicles driven almost exclusively in 30 mph zones.
The real benefit is cost--drivers are expected to save $50-$66 per day, on average. With blended fuel economy of 62 mpg, the new cab uses just a third the fuel of current cabs.
But most important of all, taxi drivers and passengers, and London's residents, will all benefit from the cleaner local air these taxis enable. Imagine the benefits if large cities worldwide followed New York and London's leads.