‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello. What have we got here then?

Our fuel-cell electric London Taxi attracted the attention of the Police this week, but for all the right reasons!

Robert, a City of London policeman came to check us out while we were parked up in the City. There were smiles all round when he recognised our head driver, Phil, from the Magical Taxi Tour (the charity which takes children with life-threatening illnesses to Disneyland Paris each year) as Robert and his colleagues form part of the outrider group that protects the convoy of almost 200 cabs en-route to Paris.

Being a cab enthusiast, and holder of a Green Badge (meaning he is able to drive taxis), Robert was keen to know more about our fuel-cell electric London Taxi, and of course, we were delighted to assist!

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VIP guests take a spin in the fuel cell electric taxi

Our team of fuel cell electric taxi drivers have been continuing to ferry VIP guests around London during the Paralympic period.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve enjoyed the company of Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard, who was joined by Evgeny Lebedev – a regular name on the Cleaner Air for London blog having travelled in the taxis three times now! On Monday we drove Luca Lytton (pictured, right, having a look under the taxi’s bonnet with Dennis and team) head of Electric Vehicle and Environmental Research at the RAC Foundation, who was keen to find out more about the Intelligent Energy fuel cell technology.

We’ve also had some important figures from the world of politics in the back of our cabs, including Jenny Jones, Leader of the Green Party; Sir Edward Lister, Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor, Policy and Planning at the Greater London Authority; and on Friday we welcomed Dominic Raab, MP for Walton and Esher, who visited the hydrogen station at Heathrow to see how it all works.

It’s been a great Paralympics, delivering on the promise to be the biggest and best in history. Intelligent Energy, The London Taxi Company and the other members of the HyTEC project consortium are very proud to have been a part of it. We’ll be back with more news tomorrow, so stay tuned.

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!”

A date in history for London taxi drivers

This morning, we bring you a wonderful ‘Look at Life’ video clip from The Rank Organisation, showing what life used to be like as a London taxi driver. The clip, dated 1960, gives us footage of how hackney cabs were made and shows cabbies learning their trade http://youtu.be/nX9pHzj2Uy4

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.