‘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!

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!”

LCV 2012

One of our fuel cell electric taxis took time out from its Paralympics schedule to head up to LCV2012, the UK’s largest low carbon vehicle event, which returned to the Millbrook Proving Ground this week. Over 2,500 delegates attended the two day event in Bedfordshire, with the Intelligent Energy team joining more than 110 other exhibitors, including the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, McLaren and General Motors.

LCV2012 was opened by Michael Fallon (pictured here talking to our VP Business Development, Dennis Hayter), the new Minister for Business, who then enjoyed a zero emission taxi journey back to the station so he could catch his train back to London. The minister was also treated to a refuelling demonstration at the new Air Products fuel station based at Millbrook.

The event featured an extensive conference and technical seminar programme running in parallel, with Dennis taking the stand himself on Thursday to present on the introduction of the fuel cell electric taxi fleet to London and provide insight into the initial operational results.

As ever, it was a great event and a terrific showcase for the capabilities of UK low carbon technology providers. We’re already looking forward to LCV2013!

California Fuel Cell Partnership talks refuelling infrastructure

Our friends at the California Fuel Cell Partnership have been in touch to let us know about an exciting new initiative to get industry, academia, NGO’s and Government agencies thinking about one of the greatest barriers to adoption of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles: refuelling infrastructure.

Chris White of the California Fuel Cell Partnership writes, “Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are poised to enter the California market as early as 2015 as an integral part of many automakers’ electric-drive portfolios. But, the biggest obstacle to introducing fuel cell electric vehicles is the lack of fueling stations.

The first FCEV purchasers must be confident that sufficient hydrogen fueling is available whether it’s near their home, work or favorite destination. And as the number of vehicles increases, the station network must grow to keep up with the demand. How do we get there and what do we need to guide the development of the fueling network?

Recognizing the need for building consensus, the California Fuel Cell Partnership brought together our 30+ members – representing industry, academia, non-governmental organizations and government agencies – to discuss, contribute and write A California Road Map. Using research and modeling tools, this collaborative effort created a strategy to guide the placement of hydrogen fueling stations. With enough stations in the right places, automakers can launch the early commercial market, paving the way for tens of thousands of fuel cell electric vehicles.”

You can see the proposed road map now at A California Road Map: The Commercialization of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

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

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!”

We speak to Dave,fuel cell electric taxi Programme Manager

We asked Dave for some insight into his job working behind the scenes with the fuel cell electric taxis as the Programme Manager.

Dave ensured the safe and on time delivery of the entire fleet of five fuel cell electric taxis to the Mayor of London’s Office for the start of the Olympic period, “I love seeing the positive reaction of the drivers and passengers to our taxis. Not only is it a clean technology, but the vehicles are quicker, quieter and smoother than a standard taxi.”

The greatest challenge for Dave has been the compressed timescale of the project, with improvements to the performance of the fuel cell system also keeping Dave busy. He’s particularly proud of the team, “they have worked long hours to build and test the latest technology on the bench and test track. Well done to all the team.”

Dave is focused on keeping the taxis in top shape now that they are on London’s roads, “We have engineers from both the Customer Services and Fuel Cell System build teams based in London to perform daily checks on the vehicles to keep them in top condition. They are backed up by specialists in Loughborough from our Mechanical, Electrical, Software and Test & Validation teams who are using wireless data monitoring devices to review the performance of the taxis.”