Images by B. Alter
Get ready London: the first zero-emissions fuel cell hybrid taxi has been unveiled. It's more than a concept: there should be 150 on the road by 2012, just in time for the Olympics. These traditional looking black cabs have no carbon emissions which is a huge plus in a big city like London.
Black cabs are going green. They will run on a hydrogen fuel cell system, which converts hydrogen into electricity and the only emission is water vapour. Breathe deep.
It's all compact in the trunk
The cab is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system, developed by Intelligent Energy, along with lithium polymer batteries. It can go for a whole day without refuelling: 250 miles on a full tank of hydrogen. If a driver takes a few trips to the airport, he can refuel in less than 5 minutes. Its top speed is 80 mph.
They are using the fuel cell battery because they couldn't get the range in an electric battery and recharging would take too long. It was acknowledged that the hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure are new and need time and money to develop. Obviously government backing and funding is key for the development of the technology.
Incentives will be needed to encourage a new fleet of owner-drivers to invest. All taxis in London have to have zero tail-pipe emissions by the year 2020 so this is the first step along that route. The cost of the new taxi is unknown. Since it is a prototype, the first ones will be more expensive. A traditional black cab costs £30,000 now. One hardened and cynical taxi driver said that it would never work: way too expensive and turn the city into a rain forest.
Initial plans are for 6 refuelling stations across the city. Since taxis gather and are concentrated in their waiting locations, it is easier to get along with a few stations. The first one will be ready next year, and will serve the 5 hydrogen-fuel cell buses which will be hitting the streets later this year.
The hydrogen fuel cell
The system is developed by Intelligent Energy a clean power system company which recently developed the world's first hydrogen fuel cell motorbike. They were working with Lotus Engineering, of Lotus sports car fame. Lotus Engineering has packaged the full propulsion system including the fuel cell engine and has designed control systems to optimise performance of both the fuel cells and electric drive systems. London Taxis International (LTI) has been building London's iconic black cabs since 1948. The new hydrogen fuel cell fits neatly into the bottom and trunk of the car and the taxi itself looks identical to the existing ones on the road.
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