METROCAB: Whatever happened to the electric taxi that never was?

At the start of 2014, an all-new, purpose-built Range Extended Electric (REE) Metrocab taxi was revealed publicly for the first time by the then London Mayor, Boris Johnson, during a presentation on zero emissions taxis.

The British designed, engineered and built Metrocab, from Ecotive and Frazer-Nash, was a new generation zero-emissions electric-powered taxi, representing the cutting edge of green transport technology.

At the presentation the London Mayor announced that all new London taxis will need to be zero emission capable from 2018 as part of a pledge made the year before to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London by 2020.

Mayor Boris Johnson said at the time: "As part of my mission to improve our air quality and drive innovation, I'm making a firm pledge to Londoners that from 2018 all taxis presented for licensing should be zero emission capable. The cleaner, greener vehicles I've seen today are proof that the evolution of the great London cab is well and truly underway."

Later in Spring 2014, Boris Johnson again commented on the Metrocab saying: "It's superb, an absolutely beautiful machine and a masterpiece of British engineering. I have just driven it and it's totally silent. It's the Rolls Royce of taxis and it will do 100mpg."

The Metrocab's REE technology delivered a range of 560km, typically saving a London taxi driver £20-£40 per day based on the average day and night duty cycle in the capital.

Some of the Metrocab’s key features included:

  • Becoming the world's first and only 'ready now' modern Range Extended Electric zero-emission-capable taxi

  • Being more than 75mpg and over three times more fuel efficient than comparable diesel taxis

  • Emitting 75% less CO2 than comparable taxi, less than 50g/km CO2

  • More than 560km combined range

  • Significantly lower running costs

  • Zero-emissions mode and home charging via standard mains outlet

  • More than 10 years in development and over a million engineering test kilometres

  • Six passenger seats (plus optional seventh passenger seat in the front).

Metrocab Chairman Sir Charles Masefield said in January 2014: "The all-new Range Extended Electric Metrocab has been in development since the mid-2000s with several prototypes built and over a million kilometres of testing completed. Instantly recognisable as a taxi and with a panoramic glass roof for views of the city, the Metrocab offers completely new levels of economy, emissions and passenger comfort and is ready to enter service this year, benefiting the customer, driver, city and environment alike."

So what did the taxi industry think of the vehicle? Back in April 2014, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) General Secretary Steve McNamara, and London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) Chairman Grant Davis, visited Metrocab's Surrey testing facility with their respective members to evaluate the Metrocab from a passenger and driver perspective.

Following static observations of the vehicle, the Metrocab was then handed to cabbies to experience first-hand on the test track. The association members were left impressed by the Metrocab's power delivery, ride quality and handling prowess.

Steve McNamara said at the time: "It's a smooth, quiet, electric vehicle. I'm a great fan of them and I think they are the future. Not just because of the emissions and environment but the silence. The worst thing about sitting in London traffic is sitting alongside noisy buses and diesel cars."

Grant Davis added: "Our members drove it today and everyone said they were impressed, amazingly impressed. I think the Metrocab gives the cab trade in London a great new future."

So why did this vehicle never make it onto UK roads? Mounting debts and a copyright infringement case, which they defended and won, slowed down the production of the taxi.

Frazer Nash, the owners of Metrocab, were ordered to be “wound up” by a High Court judge in 2018 after owing what is believed to have been more than £1.5million in unpaid debts.

However, according to an article in the LTDA TAXI magazine in Autumn 2018, they remained optimistic that the project remained still on course to enter the taxi market despite several setbacks. Nothing has been heard since.

All image credits: PRNewsFoto/Metrocab

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