What is more important, a taxi that can turn on a sixpence or electric cabs we can afford?

(Image: Royal College of Art)

When it was announced that from January 2018 all new taxis would be required to be Zero Emission Capable, it was also mooted that we would have five compliant taxis to choose from. Well, the ZEC implementation came and went, but as is often the case for the trade we were left with only one option of vehicle to buy, the TXe.

So, what happened to the other four?

One time cabbies’ favourite, the Metrocab, had a fair amount of legal and financial problems. It was at the advanced stages of testing several years ago, had TfL approval and the patronage of the then Mayor, Boris Johnson. Lovers of bridges will know that wasn’t always a good thing. There were even several Metrocabs out on the road being tested in the real world by London cabbies. It got dragged to the High Court by LEVC, which claimed the design infringed copyright, and despite winning the case, it later faced a winding up order over unpaid debts. Last year, the company claimed the taxi was still in the pipeline, despite not having a factory to build it in. Unfortunately, it is feared its many problems have killed the project stone dead. The Dynamo Nissan eNV200 Taxi has also been promised for what seems an eternity. Whilst it’s commonly seen as the least London cab like of all the options and a bit on the small side, an on the road (OTR) price that’s £10,000 lower than the TXe, along with the superior Nissan technology means many drivers have pinned their hopes on it.

The launch date for the Nissan has been pushed back several times. The LTDA has met the company on numerous occasions and we are assured that the launch is coming. Unfortunately, the difficulty in obtaining the battery packs, as massive worldwide demand across the Nissan range, has meant Dynamo has been unable to source adequate stock to go into production. Dynamo did release a statement on January 29, 2019, stating it will be released in London this year, but I haven’t heard of an actual launch or likely delivery date. Karsan, a Turkish light commercial vehicle manufacturing company also expressed an interest in entering the market with its Concept V1. Karsan’s V1 was one of three finalists, alongside the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200, for New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow, but lost out to the Nissan. Turning circle issues were expected to be an issue with this one, but it was never really a serious contender.

Lastly, there is the Mercedes Vito. Now, before I say anymore, I need to put my cards on the table and say I am a fan of the Mercedes taxi; in fact, my last two taxis have been Vito’s. The rumour mill about the possibility of an electric Vito has been slowly turning for many months. A launch in the spring or summer of next year has been suggested. That mill has now gone into overdrive after Mercedes-Benz unveiled the all-new Concept EQV electric MPV at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2019. The production model should also be on show at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2019. The new vehicle, the first purely battery-electric MPV has a 100kWh battery pack, which produces 248-miles of real-world range. This should be launched across Europe and the UK by the end of this year or early in the next. So, the predicted 2020 launch of the E-Vito Taxi could very much be on the cards. This of course leads us to the all- important question; how much? There are no figures yet, but I think its safe to say it will be more in the TXe bracket (or higher) than that of the Nissan. This has led to calls for a look at the current TfL conditions of fitness, especially those surrounding the turning circle. The current conditions of fitness require a taxi to be able to turn in not less than 25ft and not more than 28ft. For the Vito to achieve this it’s been retro fitted with rear wheel steering (RWS). I think its safe to say that the Achilles heel of the Vito has historically been this RWS. 

More importantly for this trade currently is the several thousands of pounds the RWS system costs and adds to the OTR price of a London spec Vito taxi. What we and the powers that be must ask ourselves is, is it now time to really consider what’s more important, a taxi than can turn on a sixpence, or a pure electric zero emission taxi that drivers can actually afford?  

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