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Electric Cars

My day as a cabbie in the London taxi of tomorrow

A new electric-powered black cab is on London's streets. I took it out to pick up a passenger and see what this eco taxi is like.

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All charged up.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The classic London black cab, one of the most iconic vehicles in the world, has been ferrying passengers around England's capital since the mid 20th century. But with the new electric TX by the London Electric Vehicle Company, that historical relic becomes a symbol of the future. 

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And what better way to get to grips with this new generation of London taxis than to hit the streets and pick up my first passenger?

As you may have guessed from the rather obvious company name, the TX is an electric-driven cab, capable of journeying through London with zero emissions. That's pretty important for a city with a history of battling pollution. But it's not just about being green, that electric drive system results in a quieter, smoother ride for both the passenger in the back and me the driver. While it's not exactly quick off the line, I enjoyed the gentle ride, the easy handling and the famous tight turning circle.

The TX comes with other modern features, like plugs for laptops and phones, Wi-Fi, and a built-in ramp for disabled access. It's a modern car, built for the modern city.

Strictly speaking it's a hybrid. It's got a petrol engine under the hood, but it acts only as a generator to charge the batteries. It can do about 80 miles on electric power alone but has a range of 400 miles when used as a hybrid. 

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A current affair.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

To become a cabbie in London, you've got to master something called "The Knowledge". It's the world's most difficult driving test and demands that every cabbie learn the way around 25,000 streets in London -- all from memory.

My memory is pretty much full of cat pictures and cake recipes, so I'm relying instead on the TX's built-in sat-nav.

This isn't a proof of concept, or a trial of some kind. The LEVC TX is here to stay. City regulations state that from this year on, all new registered cabs must be capable of zero emission driving. Up to 300 new fast chargers are being installed across London too, to help cabbies, and other electric drivers, recharge.

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