Chinese car company Geely has built a new factory in the U.K.‘s West Midlands that will start turning out electric cars later this year, including EV versions of London’s black cabs.
The London Taxi Company says its goal is to build 5,000 electric taxis a year by 2019 in the wake of a nearly US $350 million investment by Geely, which also owns Swedish automaker Volvo.
According to a report by The Telegraph, China views the U.K. as a “hub for innovation… manufacturing expertise and… skills,” and is a “signal of China’s confidence in the U.K. post-Brexit.”
As electric taxi production ramps up over the next two years, construction of the current diesel-powered versions will be phased out, implying it may not be long before London’s entire fleet of iconic black TX5 cabs will be electric. It’s a move the London Taxi Company says will set it up for a “continued renaissance.”
In a way, the move to battery power brings the story of London’s taxi fleet full circle: according to London-Taxi-Cabs.com, the city’s first motorized cabs, introduced in 1897, were electric.
The current black cab design is based on the Austin-built FX4 of 1958, which was updated and dubbed the TX1 for its re-debut in 1997; besides its electric powertrain, the forthcoming electric TX5 also makes use of aluminum construction to cut weight and increase efficiency.
Part of the impetus for developing a new, modern version of the black cab was increasing competition from taxi-friendly van and wagon models from mainstream manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.
Production of the TX5 is set to begin later this year, and the first examples could hit London’s streets before the end of 2017.