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China is electrifying London's iconic black cabs

Posting in Transportation

 

Cameron London Cab Shanghai.jpg
Shanghai-upon-London. The announcement that London will have electric-powered black cabs came from Shanghai by Geely chairman Li Shufu, pictured with David Cameron on the prime minister's trade tour of China this week.
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Are you fond of those iconic black cabs in London, but you really think everyone would be better off if they ran on electricity rather than on environmentally damaging diesel fuel?

No problem. China can do that.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the automotive manufacturer that rescued the London Taxi Company earlier this year by buying it for a mere £11 million ($18 million), will start churning out electrified versions at its plant in Coventry, England, the London Evening Standard reported.

Geely chairman Li Shufu announced the plans this week in Shanghai, with British Prime Minister David Cameron conveniently by his side for a photo opportunity. Cameron is whistlestopping on a trade mission through China, where his accomplishments have included a deal to allow U.K. farmers to export pig semen.

Geely also hopes to cater to a Chinese fondness for things British when it puts hundreds of its made-in-England London-style black cabs on the streets of Shenzhen in a few weeks.

Li and his Hangzhou-based company are making a mark on the Western auto trade. Geely bought struggling Volvo from Ford in 2010 for $1.8 billon. Earlier this year it acquired the London Taxi Company and its British owner Manganese Bronze Holdings out of administration; LTC is the operating division of Manganese, which had made the cab since 1948.

London's licensed black cab community is getting accustomed to change. Nissan is currently trialling a diesel model with improved mileage, and a Mercedes-Benz edition appeared within the last year - both have more of a van-like appearance rather than the classic 1940s look.

During London's 2012 Olympics, a hydrogen-powered black cab roamed the streets.

London's black cabs are known for, among other things, roominess and the ability to turn in a very small circle - a legacy of a tiny roundabout in front of the city's Savoy Hotel.

Photo is from 10 Downing Street via Flickr

More Chinese-Anglo business relations:

— By on December 5, 2013, 4:59 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure