London's black cabs to go electric

Electric black taxis have hit the roads in London, under plans to improve air quality but according to critics the cost will put drivers off "going green".

The cab costs £55,599 as against £45,000 for the newest petrol equivalent.

According to Chris Gubbey, boss of the London Electric Vehicle Company, which makes the cabs, the vehicles will play a major role in helping to improve air quality in the city.

Over 9,000 such taxis, roughly half the current black cab fleet, are expected to take to London roads by 2021.

The new taxi, which can travel 80 miles on a single battery charge, comes with a 1.5 litre petrol engine to assist with longer journeys.

The vehicle also features a filtration system that keeps out harmful gases from incoming air. It has six seats, contactless card machines, Wifi and USB charging.

LEVC claims drivers will be able to save on average £100 in fuel a week.

The new features include Wi-Fi, USB charging and even a sunroof and a range extender of up to 400 miles.

 ''You can see very clearly this is a London black cab,'' Gubbey told Reuters. However, everything is new. It (has an) all-aluminium body and electric engine with range extender. But most importantly, it's bringing clean air to London,'' he said.

The upgrade to the new taxi will cost drivers £55,000, but according to Gubbey, it will also save about £100 on average weekly fuel costs.

''It's not a step up, it's a thousand steps up, it's a different world,'' The Independent quoted  Pat Follen, who switched to one of the new vehicles after nearly 10 years driving older versions. ''All you can hear really is the tires on the tarmac - and the wind!''

The cabs come as London is set to adopt new rules, that will require new taxis to be either hybrid or completely emission-free.