TechCrunch Disrupt London Gets to #PowerUpp with Intelligent Energy

While we had a blast helping TechCrunch Disrupt SF live life unplugged a few weeks ago, we wanted to bring some of that great buzz closer to home. Fortunately, we got the chance to do just that this week at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. There are no shortage of bright minds and great ideas on our side of the pond, and so it was great to show off Upp amongst more local peers.

How did we fare on our home turf?  Better than ever! Once again, it turns out there’s nothing like wandering around a conference all day and draining your phone battery by noon to make you appreciate when someone hands you a portable hydrogen fuel cell. By 11 am both days, we had desperate attendees swarming the booth, many of them notified of our presence by the groundswell of enthusiasm for Upp on social media.

Tweet 1The TechCrunch attendees were not only incredibly appreciative of the convenience of getting to borrow a portable charger, but they were also completely wowed by the technology itself. Given the technical background of many of the attendees, they were fascinated by the sophisticated fuel cell technology compressed into Upp, and truly amazed that this kind of product will soon be available for them to purchase and use on a daily basis. The crew from ITProPortal even stopped by, and were so impressed by our demo that they featured Upp as one of the most exciting finds at the conference in their roundup of the action.

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Favourite moment? When a conference goer arrived at our stand with another battery pack, which he’d unfortunately forgotten to charge before heading out to TechCrunch, thus rendering it useless. It really brought home the benefits of Upp versus other portable chargers – why live your life attached to wall charging but just with a longer tether when you could abandon the socket altogether and live life unplugged? Upp saved the day, and we charged not just his depleted phone, but his battery as well. Needless to say, we can now count him as one of our successful converts.

It was another great event, and the buzz about Upp is only continuing to grow. Luckily, all of our devotees won’t have much longer to wait!

Meet the team: Malcolm Linskey

Last but not least, we catch up with Malcolm Linskey, our fifth and final driver to be featured on Cleaner Air for London.

Malcolm is one of the trade’s elder statesmen, having started his career as a cabbie 42 years ago. He lists none other than leading American film and television actor, Rock Hudson, as his most famous passenger!

In addition to cab driving, Malcolm owns and manages Knowledge Point, a taxi driver training school based in Islington. He’s also an active member of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (Past Master 2000) and a member of the Magical Taxi Tour Committee.

Malcolm estimates that he drives roughly 10,000 miles a year, so for him it was important to be involved in the fuel cell electric taxi project because he wants to be part of an initiative that contributes towards cleaner air for all of us to breathe.

He explained, “It’s been an amazing experience for me. I’ve been in the cab trade most of my working life, working with diesels all of the time. To have a vehicle that’s so clean; I can see that for the next generation of cab drivers, it’s going to be fantastic. The fuel cell electric taxis are also very comfortable to drive!”

Meet the team: Operations manager Jim, shares his thoughts on managing the hydrogen taxi fleet

We asked Jim, our operations manager, for his thoughts on managing the hydrogen taxi fleet. This is what he had to say…

“Hi, I’m Jim. I am responsible for running the fuel cell electric taxis from our base in north London, and for ensuring that they are in pristine condition to transport the Mayor of London and his VIP guests to and from events associated with the Olympic and Paralympics.

We’re now into the Paralympic phase and it’s fair to say that no two days have been the same. Of course, there are certain things that my team and I need to do each day, for example performing daily checks on the taxis, ensuring that they are fuelled and valeted, and preparing them for our guests. However by the very nature of the fact that these taxis are prototypes, I go to work each morning wondering what challenges the day will bring, and usually I am not disappointed! I have a great technical team behind me and together we have worked to deliver on all of the opportunities which have been sent our way.

This team includes people from Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell build, system engineering, test and validation, software engineering, technical support and programme management, to name but a few. We’re working closely with other companies too, including our HyTec partners (the London Taxi Company and Air Products), and suppliers including TRW Connekt and Lotus, to ensure that the taxis are running smoothly while in London.

The London Taxi Company in particular has given us great support in providing us with a base to work from and mechanical support where needed. And of course I also work closely with our brilliant team of taxi drivers, agreeing the schedule for each day and listening to their valuable feedback.

I’ve been really pleased with the way that the taxis have been performing while in London. We had already carried out various testing prior to the Olympic period and now we’re learning a lot about how the fuel-cell technology performs in a demanding, real-world environment. We have been driving around central London and out to the Olympic Park almost every day, taking VIP guests of the Greater London Authority to various business events and to the Games themselves.

Members of the GLA have also enjoyed rides in the taxi, including the Mayor himself, Boris Johnson, and deputy mayors Kit Malthouse, Sir Edward Lister and Munira Mirza. Boris and Kit in particular are very keen on the technology and we have heard them enthusiastically explaining the benefits of hydrogen and fuel cells to their guests.

I’m really enjoying my role as operations manager. It’s challenging of course, can sometimes be stressful, and has demanded long days but it’s also immensely satisfying to work with the prototype taxi fleet knowing that Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles could and should be the zero emissions taxis of the future.”

Meet the team: taxi drivers Ashley and Chris

We found time in the busy taxi schedule to speak to Ashley and Chris, two of our five London cabbies.

Ashley has been a licensed London taxi driver for 38 years, regularly covering over 25,000 miles a year. Ashley was keen to be one of our drivers, “it’s great to take part in the trial of a technology of the future and I’m keen to keep the environment clean too.”

After driving the fuel cell electric taxi for a week, he had this to say, “The only thing you can hear in this [taxi] is noise from other traffic. It’s quiet, it’s smooth and it’s absolutely fabulous.”

Ashley also told us about two of his most famous passengers, “I think the most famous people I’ve driven would have to be Princess Margaret and a Royal Prince from Saudi Arabia.”

Chris has been driving London taxis since 1975, and during that time he has seen many changes to London and to the taxis that he drives. “The taxis I have driven have moved with the times and my current model features a catalytic converter, which is a move in the right direction for better air quality in London. When I heard about the possibility of test driving a hydrogen taxi, I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Chris usually drives passengers around London, but many interesting  journeys have also taken him outside of London, including three times to Cardiff, once to Taunton and many times taking students back to nearby universities. Outside of taxi driving, music is a big part of Chris’ life. He regularly gets together with a group of friends to write and perform songs, often in the back of a cab.

Chris’ passengers, who have included Jack Nicholson and Joanna Lumley, expect a smooth, quiet and prompt service and he thinks the fuel cell electric taxis would be great at providing this. “These vehicles are wonderful to drive and they’re so quiet that the loudest thing I can hear are the voices in my head – beautiful!”

Meet the team: Phil from London

As our fuel cell electric hybrid Black Cabs are on London’s roads transporting VIPs around the capital, we thought you would like to know a little more about the five cabbies behind the wheel, and first up is Phil.

Phil has been a licensed London taxi driver for nearly 40 years, covering about 30,000 miles per year. Phil’s driven many different London taxis, often trialling new versions, and he’s followed our zero emission taxis closely, “I was excited that the original concept had come to fruition. To be able to drive one was an amazing experience.”

When Phil is not driving a taxi, he is in charge of The Children’s Magical Taxi Tour, where 100 London taxis take 200 children with life threatening illnesses on a three day, 750 mile round trip to Disneyland, Paris. It’s an excellent event for a very worthwhile cause, so do visit the link!

After taking the fuel cell electric taxi for a spin Phil gave us a few more thoughts, “At first, I was not sure what to expect, but once I started driving I found it very easy with excellent steering. The most obvious difference was the sound level, without the engine noise I could talk to the passengers easily.”

Finally, we asked Phil about his passengers, “Probably the most famous person who rode in the back of my cab was Jack Nicolson, Jimmy Saville was also a regular taxi passenger. During the Olympic Bid, I carried most of the sportsmen and women involved, including Lord Coe, Bobbie Charlton, Tani Grey Thompson, and Sir Steve Redgrave.”

Meet the team: Cabbie Chris shares his thoughts on the fuel cell black cabs

Some thoughts from Chris on our Fuel Cell Black Cabs. Chris will be driving this hydrogen taxi around London during the Olympic period.

Meet the team: Michael takes the hydrogen taxi for a spin

Michael, one of our drivers, chats about the hydrogen taxis after taking one for a spin.