Next-gen TX5 electric black cabs will start appearing in London later this year—and somewhat unusually, they will be manufactured at the UK’s first new car plant in over a decade. The factory, located on the edge of Coventry, is almost entirely funded by Chinese manufacturing giant Geely, which over the past few years has acquired both Volvo and the London Taxi Company.
The factory, which officially opened on Wednesday and will have the capacity to produce 20,000 vehicles per year, cost around £300 million to build and will create about 1,000 new jobs over the next few months. The black cabs will initially be sold in the UK later in 2017, and then around the world in 2018.
While this is obviously a big win for UK industry it’s also rather awkward for Geely, which started building the factory before the UK voted to leave the EU. If a “hard” Brexit occurs, and UK-EU trade tariffs revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, cars could cost up to 10 percent more to produce here—enough that it would make sense for some car companies to build new factories in the EU, rather than investing here.
The UK government has provided a £16 million grant for the new factory, and the department for transport has a further £64 million in incentives lined up, which will pay for more electric charging points across the country and a £7,500 discount for taxi drivers buying the new TX5 black cab (and presumably any other electric cabs that are sold in the UK).
Selling Your Car?
The TX5, which was first announced back in 2015, is actually a plug-in hybrid rather than a full electric vehicle. It will have a battery-only range of around 70 miles, and a new three-cylinder Volvo petrol engine as a generator. Most London taxi drivers rack up between 100 and 200 miles of driving per day, so with a little streetside recharging throughout the day that petrol engine might not be used much. That’s good news for London’s air pollution problem, and also for taxi drivers: charging up is currently a lot cheaper than buying petrol.
Design-wise, the TX5 will have six seats, a panoramic glass roof, space for a forward-facing wheelchair, and the passenger doors will once again be rear-hinged. For the driver, there’s more leg room. Perhaps most importantly, each TX5 will broadcast a Wi-Fi hotspot for Internet access, and there’ll be power points so that you can recharge your devices. The TX5 looks slightly different from the outgoing TX4, though its silhouette is still fairly black cabesque.
Despite its fancy hybrid powertrain, the TX5, thanks to the government subsidy, is expected to cost about the same as the TX4 to buy or lease. The London Taxi Company says that it expects the TX5 to account for half of London’s black cabs by 2020.