► New electric black cab driven
► Shares components with Volvo
► Uses petrol range extender
Geely is on a roll right now. Not content with rejuvenating Volvo and allowing it enough creative free reign to release a spate of impressive cars – most recently the XC40 – the Chinese giant has also turned its attentions to Lotus and its new Lynk & Co offshoot. But there’s another interesting Geely car you’ve probably already seen on the road - and even had a ride in. We’re talking about the LEVC TX, an-all new electric taxi that’s taking the black cab into the 21st century.
So what’s different?
On the outside at least, the electric taxi shares a similar style to London's iconic black cab. A rectangular portrait-style grille is flanked by circular headlights, and the wheels feature the same classic hub caps as older taxis. In fact, the LEVC has roughly the same proportions, as its predecessor – though it’s slightly wider and longer than the conventional cab.
Open the EV Taxi’s bonnet, and you’ll find a 1.5-litre Volvo petrol engine – but it doesn’t deliver any power to the rear wheels. Instead, it’s used solely to top up the car’s batteries. This important detail makes the TX a range-extending EV rather than a hybrid. LEVC says the TX is good for 377 miles between top ups, though only 80 of those miles would be using batteries alone. Despite that, you can still plug the cab in and charge it in around half an hour, and it features both a CCS and CHAdeMO charging socket either side of its grille.
The LEVC stores its 23kW of batteries up front with the driver, leaving the passengers to have as much room as possible. This taxi can comfortably fit six modern adults – beating the five smaller people that the current cab can take. A huge panoramic roof window means it feels loftier, and there’s also a hydraulic wheelchair ramp that can deploy in around ten seconds.
Is it a heavyweight?
EV power may seem like the main difference between this taxi and the last, and while it’s probably the most obvious – it’s the weight-saving that’s most impressive. The TX contains a mountain of hardware for its electric powertrain but surprisingly, it’s amazingly just around 250 kg heavier than the traditional diesel model – and that’s down to a diet of, well, aluminium.
We’re told the TX’s skin is made almost entirely of the stuff, and that means it’s able to deliver the efficiency its electric powertrain promises. Rough figures put the old taxi at around 18-22 mpg, and the new one at 35 mpg. A fair jump, then.
Less weight means more speed, too, and when you remember this cab shares the same rear motor as the one that’ll be used in the Polestar 1 (which uses two of them) you expect the LEVC to have a fair bit of grunt. And it sort of does. But because this is a tool rather than an enthusiast go-kart, LEVC has dialled down the acceleration – making the taxi more efficient and easier to manage in traffic.
Up front, the TX betrays its Geely roots – because it’s essentially a Volvo. Sure, the screen is in a different place, and you’re in a commanding driving position, but every display runs Sensus (the infotainment system used in current Volvo models), and is strikingly similar to what you’d find in anything from an XC40 to V60.
Even the key is the same design, albeit fashioned with lower-quality, coarser plastic. The steering wheel is almost identical to what you’d find in a new Volvo too, though the LEVC doesn’t share the flourishes of high-gloss finish its Scandinavian cousins enjoy.
So what’s it like to drive?
Having admittedly never driven a cab before this test, it’s impossible to judge this new model compared with the previous version – but it’s a bit like driving a Volvo SUV combined with bus.
The cab’s natural home is gridlocked traffic, and the TX is fully evolved for its environment. Just like traditional cabs, it benefits from an eye-opening 63deg turning circle, which essentially means you can steer directly to anywhere you can see, no matter how sharp the angle. That on its own makes you see London in a different light – a bit like unlocking a new ability in a video game.
The LEVC’s power comes intuitively but also quite quickly – at lower speeds at least – and when combined with the TX’s nippy EV response, parkouring through London traffic becomes an artform.
The TX comes with a energy recovery modes and there are three levels on offer here. The first does practically nothing, while the last aggressively slows the car down when you’re not on the throttle – almost reducing the need for braking entirely. However, we’d wager the middle setting will be used the most, as it provides a good blend of regeneration and coasting ability.
Like most modern cars, the TX also has a proximity sensors, AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking), forward collision and lane-keeping but we think most London cabs won’t really need them. There is one interesting caveat when it comes to driving the TX, though. As it’s a relatively long vehicle, we were advised to creep out further than usual before steering, to protect the rear wing from scuffs.
As a passenger, the LEVC is relatively serene. The rear compartment feels much roomier and brighter than the previous model, but the most important additions are Wi-Fi and an almost total lack of noise compared with the diesel model. Yes, you’ll hear the occasional noise of the Volvo ICE at the front of the car, but it’s nowhere near the rattle of the diesel unit.
Revolution or evolution?
After years as a diesel, you’d expect an EV cab to mark a huge, potentially controversial change – but the reality is something of an anti-climax. The new LEVC is an example of matured technology being deployed in exactly the right place, and the end result is a clear step ahead of the old model.
Everything that made the old model a taxi is still here, with the benefit of rear-hinged cab doors, better economy, driver’s environment and in-car tech. The only remote issue? The price. At £55,000 the TX is much more expensive than the diesel, but it should cost cost £400-a-month less to run, and it’ll need less frequent servicing, too.