Social Innovation: London’s Iconic Black Cabs Go Electric

London’s iconic black cabs are to go electric with the unveiling of a social innovation prototype that will be tested on roads early in 2013. Carmaker Nissan has said that its new taxi can eliminate 20% of London's exhaust pollution caused by its 22,000 black cabs. Nissan has warned that it is now down to politicians to make electric traffic a practical reality; Boris Johnson, the City’s mayor, has pledged that a zero-emission taxi fleet will be in service by 2020. These vehicles have a potential range of 200 miles a day, based on an overnight charge and a 30-minute fast charge at one of the anticipated future network of charging points. They are affordable and 50 percent more fuel efficient than other alternative cabs.

The NV200 social innovation taxi will also be produced in a diesel engine version that the car manufacturer claims is 50% more fuel-efficient than existing cabs. These diesel taxis are expected to be on general sale to taxi drivers by 2014 and will be built in Barcelona, while the electric versions will have their batteries and motors produced in Sunderland in the northeast of the U.K.

Nissan is also adapting the same model for Tokyo and for New York's famous yellow fleet. Andy Palmer, executive vice-president of Nissan, says, "The Nissan NV200 is a global taxi, launching in the biggest and brightest cities in the world. Safe, comfortable, efficient and convenient - it's a great step forward for providing a transport solution that is good for both its users and other city inhabitants."

London's cab drivers’ official representatives were enthusiastic about an electric fleet, and not just because Nissan has promised to price its social innovation vehicle below those built by rivals the London Taxi Company and Mercedes. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, says, "People think 'Ah, cabbies, they don't care,’ but we sit in traffic all day. We sit in more pollution than anyone. From what I've seen of the NV200 London Taxi, it ticks all the right boxes. It's important that it looks like a cab, is comfortable. If the fuel consumption figures are as promised, it will be a big seller."

Designed from the inside out for the well-being of passengers, drivers and even other road users, the NV200 London Taxi is more efficient and more environmentally considerate than the current 'black cab' models. A particular focus has also been placed on providing for passengers with mobility issues. Nissan has worked with Assist UK, a national network for advice on independent living equipment in developing an accessible taxi to meet the needs of all disabled people. Improving air quality in London is an important challenge and it’s great to see car manufacturers responding to this challenge, delivering a 21st century vision for this capital City.

Photo Credit: Nissan Main Website