The Changing Face of the Black Cab

Nissan LogoIn 2013 the future of the iconic Hackney Carriage was thrown into doubt due to manufacturer Manganese Bronze going into administration. Luckily, Chinese manufacturer Geely bought the company and continued manufacturing the LTI TX4 among other models at the original Coventry site. However, other companies have also recently been looking to take a share of the black cab market, with Nissan revealing their version to the public just last week.

The Nissan Taxi for London is based on the NV200 commercial vehicle and is therefore larger than the traditional Hackney Carriage. Nissan has been designing the vehicle for a number of years now, and have had to make numerous revisions to the design after comments from London Mayor Boris Johnson. In August 2012 he stated that the vehicle design would not be suitable as it was not in-keeping with traditional Hackney Carriage aesthetic. The version released last week shows that Nissan took the criticism on board, as the front end of the vehicle looks extremely similar to the LTI TX4 manufactured by Manganese Bronze.

Discussing the design process, Design Excellence Manager for Nissan Darryl Scriven said: “The Mayor’s office and taxi drivers were very keen that we maintain the character of the Hackney Carriage, making it something that people in the city can be proud of. The main challenges were concerned with making sure customers can easily recognise it as a taxi. Being in London, we were able to go out and talk to cabbies about what was important to them as well as look at the vehicle from a customer’s viewpoint.”

There are some noticeable differences between Nissan’s new model and the LTI TX4, which is expected as Nissan try to place themselves as a leading manufacturer of black taxis. Along with being larger in size, the doors of the Nissan Taxi for London slide across to allow passengers entry, and the cab in the front is larger than in the LTI TX4. There have also been talks of a zero emissions electric version being released in 2015, which will be popular among MPs assigned to lower the pollution levels of the nation’s capital.

However, Nissan could soon face competition in the electric taxi market, especially from Metrocab who recently demonstrated their creation to Boris Johnson. The plan is for their electric taxis to hit the market this year and cost the same amount as the LTI TX4. Discussing their vehicles, Metrocab chairman Sir Charles Masefield said: “The Metrocab is designed as the next-generation taxi and represents a revolution in the market as the first electric-powered cab to meet the duty cycle of a London taxi, where cabbies typically drive many miles outside the city, making pure electric cars impractical with current technology and infrastructure.

“Ready now, our … technology offers the solution London and other world-class cities are looking for.” There are still some concerns over the new models however, especially when it comes to reliability, with the General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association Steve McNamara saying: “The cab trade welcomes clean, green technology. However it is important that this vehicle proves to be durable first, for service in London.”

There are also questions as to how much maintaining an electric taxi will cost, as generally the technology that goes into creating them is more expensive than for fuel powered vehicles. Not only could this increase the cost of taxi insurance but also parts and time spent off the road should the vehicle be involved in an accident. It is therefore likely that when the Metrocabs hit London’s roads we will see numerous opinions from taxi drivers, both positive and negative.

Even though it will be sad to see the LTI TX4 slowly disappearing from London’s roads, it’s was inevitable for new versions to take over. Luckily, Boris Johnson is making it clear that the LTI TX4 design won’t be completely abolished and that drivers will benefit from safer, more eco-friendly vehicles that will make their day to day lives easier.

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