Hydrogen Fuelled Taxis For a Zero Emission London

Accounting for roughly 80% of London’s airborne pollution, tackling road traffic emissions is high on the agenda for the city’s leaders. Reported as having some of the worst air quality of any capital city in Europe, London has already launched a number of initiatives to address the challenge. “Boris Bikes”, the “Low Emission Zone”, and on-going upgrades to the public transport network are all geared towards reducing London’s carbon footprint and making its air more fit to breathe.

Last Thursday (16th January), London Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced a significant new measure to further cleaning up London’s act. Targeting what he called the “Achilles heel” of the iconic Black Cab, the new initiative aims to cut out the “pollution generated by chugging diesel engines”.  The mandate stated that all new taxis will be required to be zero-emission capable by 2018 – a significant ask!


Named “New Taxis for London”, the event was host to Intelligent Energy and its partner, The London Taxi Company, and other taxi manufacturers. Showcasing the hydrogen fuel cell powered taxi that made its debut at the 2012 Olympics, Intelligent Energy’s cab was immediately distinguishable, perfectly in keeping with the iconic “black cab” design.


There were some criticisms surrounding the future of purely battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in London from the Green Party. They questioned the limited range of EVs, and the need to plug in at one of 1,300 electric charging points. However, for our hydrogen-fuelled cabbies during the Olympics it was business as usual.

Because the fuel cell taxi is refuelled at the pump by inserting a nozzle, much like refuelling today’s diesel cabs, drivers were able to top up in minutes (not hours) and drive for eight hours or more without having to worry about filling up. The trials have employed just two hydrogen refilling stations, but as few as 25-30 would comfortably cater for London’s entire taxi fleet.

“Having driven taxis for 40 years, this is the smoothest, quietest taxi I have ever driven… it’s absolutely fabulous”           –          Phil Davis & Ashley Blackburn The cabbies’ responses really speak for themselves, highlighting just how viable and practical a replacement they present for our zero emission future.

While 2018 may be the target, the technology is here now; ready to deliver clean and efficient fuel to London’s Black Cabs. Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell taxi boasts the range, performance and practicality of today’s cabs with the quieter travel and zero harmful emissions.


Update on Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric London taxis

Intelligent Energy’s very own Dennis Hayter recently met with uBrainTV to talk about the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric London taxis. Naturally we wanted to share the video clips with you, to keep you up-to-date on how the Fuel Cell Taxis programme is progressing.

In this first video Dennis is interviewed by Anne McIvor, in the back of one of the taxis. Anne and Dennis talk about the vehicles fuel cell technology and how this differs to the fuel cell technology used in other vehicles such as the Suzuki Burgman motorbike. Dennis also explains which vehicles are likely to hit the UK’s streets first and if there is an opportunity to incorporate the fuel cell technology into different vehicles and countries.


In this second video, Dennis discusses with Mark Bradbury the evolution of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell London Taxi since inception – in particular, looking at the technology behind the vehicle. Mark, who has experienced the taxi as a passenger, mentions that it looks and feels like the iconic London back cab, but Dennis points out noticeable differences such as the lack of a tail pipe and zero polluting emissions.

In the final video, Dennis meets with John-Marc Bunce to talk about the Hydrogen Fuel Cell London Taxi roll out following the 2012 summer Olympics and Paralympics. Dennis speaks about hydrogen refueling and the importance of moving forward with the fuel cell powered taxis, to meet the mayor’s environment strategy of ensuring that all London taxis are emission-free by 2020.

Credit: footage courtesy of United Brain Networks Ltd 

We take actress Barbara Windsor for a spin

We collected well-known actress Barbara Windsor and her husband Scott this morning in our hydrogen taxi to take them to the ExCel Centre to watch the sitting volleyball as guest of the Mayor of London.

Barbara, who is a patron of many charities, including the National Osteoporosis Society and FABLE, was pleased to hear about possibility of zero emission taxis.

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.”

Zero emission taxis will transport VIPs during the Paralympics

After a short break to recover from quite possibly the best Olympics ever held – well done to all the athletes, volunteers, Team GB and indeed all of the visiting athletes who made it such a success – we’ve been preparing our fuel cell electric taxis to go out on London’s roads again. They’ve had a wash, a refuel, and are now ready to go.

The fleet of zero emission taxis, which have already covered over 1,000 pollution free miles on London’s roads, will be transporting VIPs around the capital during the Paralympics for the Greater London Authority.

We’ll be keeping you updated here on the blog, on the interesting people we have in the back of the taxis, as well as those on our own team who are making the whole activity possible.

Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a ride in the fuel cell electric taxi

Since our last journey update, we’ve continued to be busy transporting VIPs guests around London on behalf of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority.

Yesterday, the well-known actor, politician and former professional bodybuilder – the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California, was given a lift in one of our taxis. Schwarzenegger and his entourage travelled to Greenwich to watch the USA triumph over Spain in the Men’s Basketball finals.

In London to promote his latest film the Expendables 2, the former governor was the guest of London Mayor, Boris Johnson. Arnold’s feedback on the fuel cell electric taxi: “I want one of these.” We hope he’ll be back…

Other guests in the back of our cabs over the last few days included Richard Desmond (owner of the Express group of newspapers) and his wife, and Evgeny Lebedev, proprietor of the London Evening Standard and The Independent. We also driven Lord Fink, Tory Party Treasurer, Mr Christopher North, the Managing Director of Amazon UK, Sir George White of Bristol Motors and Dr Wright of Wright Group to various Olympic events.

As the Games came to an end, we were delighted to hear the following comments from the Mayor’s Office: “Thank you very much to everyone. We appreciate the efforts to prove these prototypes and get us and our guests to the events in comfort and on time.”

That’s all from us until the taxis restart their activities during the Paralympics period. Hope to see you again then!

Video: see the fuel cell electric taxi in action

A fleet of five fuel cell electric taxis, powered by Intelligent Energy fuel cells, are on the streets of London during the Olympic period, transporting visiting VIPs around the capital. In this video, our drivers give their view on the hydrogen taxis.

Cleaner Air for London

You’ve probably seen the phrase “Cleaner Air for London” on the side of our five fuel cell electric taxis, either here on the blog or out on the streets of London, so we wanted to give you a little more information about air quality and why the move to zero emission transport is so important.

Our aim is to demonstrate what could be achieved if zero emission hydrogen fuel cell technologies powered the entire London taxi fleet – that’s 23,000 taxis. Although taxis account for just one percent of all public transport journeys within the capital, they are responsible for a massive 25 percent of all particulate (PM10) emissions.

Particulates are very small particles (of soot and other combustion compounds) which contribute to air pollution and can harm the body when inhaled. So it’s clear that the more we can reduce to reduce the amount of particulates, the better our environment and health will be.

We all know that air pollution is a big issue, especially in big cities, but you might not be aware of a recent House of Commons report on air quality that estimated air pollution could contribute to as many as 50,000 deaths in the UK each year.

In London, the first city to see our fuel cell electric taxis in action, around 4,300 deaths per year are partly caused by long-term exposure to air pollution. Let’s also not forget the economic cost of poor air quality, which the UK Government estimates is around £15 billion for the nation, and as much as £2 billion a year for London alone.

The good news is that replacing all 23,000 London taxis with zero emission alternatives would reduce annual CO2 emissions and dramatically reduce particulate emissions by 25 percent. It would bring about a huge improvement in air quality, benefitting all those living, working and travelling through London.

This transition to cleaner electric vehicles is already taking place in other many cities around the world. It’s time for London to make the change, and with the help of the Greater London Authority and our other partners in the HyTEC programme, this is becoming a reality.

Event: Advanced Engineering Summit 2012

Today, Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell technology, which powers the fuel cell taxis, was showcased at the Advanced Engineering Summit held in the British Business Embassy at Lancaster House, London.

We found ourselves in great company at this prestigious event with our fuel cell system being displayed alongside exhibits from Jaguar Land Rover, JCB and McLaren to name but a few.

Motive Managing Director James Batchelor took part in a panel discussion entitled ‘Developing a global, sustainable automotive industry for the future’ alongside Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills and Prof Neville Jackson, Chief Technology/Innovation Officer at Ricardo.

Intelligent Energy’s CEO, Dr Henri Winand, who had personally received an invitation from the British Government, arrived in style in one of our fuel cell electric taxis (pictured).

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!”