Black cabs go green as London prepares to hail 'electric' taxis

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The Independent Online

A Canadian company is launching the world's first-ever "hybrid" environmentally friendly taxi on London's streets next month.

A Canadian company is launching the world's first-ever "hybrid" environmentally friendly taxi on London's streets next month.

Azure Dynamics will give two of the specially adapted black cabs a trial run this summer in a joint venture with London Taxis International, owned by Manganese Bronze.

The company is also attempting to raise between £8m and £12m in a listing on the Alternative Investment Market at the end of June. It is already listed in Toronto with a value of about £30m and includes the British financier John Gunn as one of its main investors.

It will unveil the two vehicles in Trafalgar Square and plans to demonstrate them to institutional investors and the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Azure has developed technology that uses the energy generated from braking to power the engine and extend its range. It combines a traditional fuel engine with an electric generator and battery, known as the HEV powertrain.

The "hybrid electric vehicle" system is claimed to cut emissions and be 40 per cent more efficient than conventional petrol and diesel vehicles. It costs around £8,000 to adapt each taxi engine, but the company says cabbies can recoup the cost within three to four years because of the fuel savings.

If the trial is successful, a third taxi will enter service at the end of the year; full-scale production could begin next year.

The technology is best suited to commercial "stop-start" vehicles such as taxis and delivery vans. Campbell Deacon, the chief executive of Azure, says the company has approached Royal Mail about a similar deal and is developing an electric van in a joint venture with Leyland and Renault.

Mr Deacon estimates that in most urban areas a quarter of emissions from stop-start vehicles come from only a tenth of the distance they drive.

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