Better black cabs are on the way

5 September 2013

Nissan New York Taxi

Nissan has begun production of its NV200 yellow cab, 18 months after winning the contract to supply the “Taxi of Tomorrow” to New York City.

Yellow cab drivers will be required to adopt the Nissan over the next three years, though they do also have the option to choose a hybrid-powered vehicle of equivalent size instead. The Big Apple’s network of streets and avenues will be transformed as the new and cleaner cars replace the lumbering old yellow sedans.

Nissan NV200 black cab

Just over a year ago, Nissan unveiled plans for a London Taxi based on its New York design. The NV200 black cab should be revealed in its finished form shortly, having undergone a front-end facelift to graft on a more traditional grille and round headlamps, if rumours are to be believed. An electric version is mooted too, alongside the mainstream diesel option that should be a fair bit more economical than the established competition.

Actually noticeably shorter than the New York edition, the Nissan black cab should fare well in London’s choked and contorted arteries by virtue of its specially adapted front suspension, allowing U-turns within the tight 7.62m circle stipulated by Transport for London.

Mercedes Vito Taxi with rear wheel steer

While various manufacturers provide specially adapted taxis based on people carriers or vans – you can see a selection at taxi specialist Cab Direct – not all are able to turn on London’s required sixpence. Those that can, such as the Mercedes Vito Taxi, typically do so by temporarily steering the rear wheels in addition to the fronts, a solution that most cabbies I’ve chatted to aren’t especially keen on.

Which means one of the three finalists for the New York Taxi of Tomorrow – Karsan, a commercial vehicle manufacturer based in Turkey – may face an uphill struggle in London. It plans to adapt its purpose-built V1 taxi with rear-wheel steering to meet TfL’s tough “conditions of fitness” – and it also intends to rely purely on batteries for propulsion. With a range of 80 to 100 miles between charges, and support for half-hour rapid charging, the electric V1 will offer an intriguing alternative to the traditional-shape, diesel-powered TX4.

Karsan yellow cab

Speaking of which, the most familiar of London Taxis is set to go back into production at the end of the summer. The London Taxi Corporation is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Geely – the same Chinese company that owns Volvo – meaning it should have a solid future after soldiering through the nightmare of administration. Geely has sunk significant quantities of cash into Volvo and will presumably try to lever some of that investment into its new taxi division.

Geely has said that it plans to improve both the energy efficiency and environmental footprint of its black cab. Through Volvo, Geely has access to seasoned expertise in both electric and hybrid powertrains.

Modern, clean and economical propulsion combined with an iconic black-cab shape could be a tough combination to beat.

Geely's TX4 taxi

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