Nissan's vision for London’s famous black taxi cabs got a makeover this week as the company unveiled its latest Taxi for London design. Based on Nissan’s NV200 platform and redesigned by Nissan's European design center in Paddington, the updated black cabs not only sport a fresh look, they promise cleaner transport for the city, with the old diesel engines giving way to 1.6-liter petrol and all-electric drivetrains.
Squealing brakes and all, the classic London black taxi is one of the defining images of the capital. It’s gone through any number of changes from the days of horse-drawn growlers and Hansoms, up through the boxy Beardmores and Austins of today, but the Hackney Carriages, as they’re officially called, are as much a part of the fabric of London as the lions in Trafalgar Square and Big Ben tolling the hours.
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Still, time does pass and technology marches on, so Nissan and others figured that it was time to update the black cabs and move away from the smelly diesel engines towards something a bit more environmentally friendly.
The new face of Nissan’s Taxi for London is designed to be immediately recognizable as a cab, but how well it succeeds is open to question. Based on the company’s NV200 taxi as part of Nissan's global taxi program, it’s very boxy and at first glance it looks more like a van than a taxi. True, it does carry over some design cues from current London cabs, but this one won’t ever be mistaken for an Austin even in a bad light.
That being said, the new design does try to emulate a classic cab. Compared to the NV200, the bonnet is softer, the wings are more pronounced, and the round headlamps and remodeled grille are definite echoes of the traditional black cabs. There’s also a LED-lit taxi sign and newly designed front bumper panels.
This isn't Nissan's first go at redesigning the Hackney carriage. In August 2012, the company unveiled its first version, but after receiving feedback, Nissan handed the project over to Nissan Design Europe (NDE) in Paddington to produce a design for London produced in London.
"Having already overcome the unique technical challenges presented by the development of a new Hackney Carriage for London ahead of our launch of the vehicle in August 2012, we turned our attention to making the vehicle look the part,” says Design Excellence Manager at NDE, Darryl Scriven. “The Mayor's office and taxi drivers were very keen that we maintain the character of the Hackney Carriage, making it something that people in the city can be proud of."
The new taxi uses a 1.6-liter petrol engine equipped with an automatic gearbox, which will be cleaner than the current diesel engines. In addition, Nissan says that the taxi meets Transport for London (TfL) regulations, including being able to make the required 25-ft (7.6-m) turning circle, which was first introduced to allow cabs to drop off and pick up fares at the entrance of the Savoy hotel.
Nissan says that a production version of the Taxi for London will be available in December of this year and an electric taxi called the e-NV200 will be introduced in 2015.
The video below explains the design philosophy behind Nissan’s taxi for London.