Here comes the Range Extended Electric Metrocab, a hybrid people-mover that began plying Central London streets this week in a limited trial. The cab, cutting a profile that its producers say is "sympathetic" to archetypal London taxis such as the London Taxi Company’s TX4, is built in Surrey by British firms Frazer-Nash and Ecotive.
Motive power is drawn primarily from a 12.2 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack – roughly 4kWh smaller than the unit found in the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid – which powers two electric motors, one at each of the rear wheels. Energy can be channelled into the depleted pack via an onboard 1-litre gasoline-burning engine coupled to a generator. Frazer-Nash and Ecotive claim a maximum travel range for its Metrocab of 560km (348 miles). Befitting a London taxi, the Metrocab complies with the various idiosyncratic rules set forward by London’s Public Carriage Office, such as meeting a tight turning radius of 7.62m (25 feet) – a standard derived from the size of the turning circle in front of the city’s Savoy Hotel.
Passengers are treated to panoramic views of the Smoke through a glass roof panel.
Taxis are very much top of mind for Londoners. The once-bankrupt London Taxi Company restarted its hackney carriage production lines in September 2013 after a cash infusion by China’s Geely Holding Group. Nissan’s Paddington-based UK design studio slapped a throwback face on the carmaker’s NV200 van – a model that is steadily colonising New York’s streets – and dubbed it the London Taxi (with a capital “T”).
Frazer-Nash and Ecotive said operators will register their interest in trialing the Metrocab this year, though the companies have global ambitions for their product. With the TX4 back on track and the NV200 months away, it will clearly have company.