First Drive: LEVC TX Vista

Road Test
Angela123

 

The black cab is a London icon, and like all the best icons, it’s undergone a reinvention. Fresher and cleaner, Richard Gooding takes a ride in the zero-emissions capable LEVC TX

What is it?
Formerly the London Taxi Company, London Taxis International, and Carbodies, the London Electric Vehicle Company’s (LEVC) portfolio includes the diesel-powered FX4.

Its legacy can be traced back as far as the 1940s but the shift towards electro-mobility really began in 2017. It was then that its TX plug-in range-extender taxi was certified ahead of London’s ruling which specified that all new cabs had to be capable of zero-emission running.

The TX is suitably new from the ground-up and is manufactured at a 37,000sq m factory at Ansty, five miles northeast of Coventry.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese carmaker Geely, the LEVC plant is the result of a £500m investment. The UK’s newest car factory, it is the only one dedicated to building electric vehicles.

How does it drive?
The TX retains the instantly-recognisable silhouette of its predecessors, but updates it for the digital age.

The range-extending powertrain calls for a lighter weight, and the TX uses aerospace technologies to aid efficiency.

A bonded and anodised aluminium frame not only helps make the TX lighter, but also makes it safer. Composite body panels also reduce weight, the TX tipping the scales at 2,230kg.

Inside, it’s the most upmarket cab for a generation. Geely also owns Volvo and drivers familiar with recent offerings from the Swedish manufacturer will find a few shared components.

The nine-inch colour touchscreen, steering wheel and gearshift have obvious Volvo heritage, but digital instruments also add a high-tech feel. Room for six and a 714mm-wide wheelchair access ramp make the TX accommodating for passengers, too.

But the powertrain is the TX’s reason for its existence. The diesel engine is out, replaced by a 31kWh lithium-ion battery and 110kW electric motor, and a 81bhp Volvo-sourced 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine.

The petrol unit is only ever used as a generator to charge the batteries, the TX’s rear wheels are always driven electrically. LEVC calls the technology ‘eCity’, and it suits the urban environments in which it operates perfectly.

There’s the same instant torque – 188lb ft (255Nm) – as other electric vehicles, which makes the TX able to nip in and out of city streets, where its manoeuvrability plays on that of its legendary predecessors.

What range does it have?
On the NEDC cycle, the LEVC TX has an 80-mile all-electric range, boosted to 377 miles by the three-cylinder petrol engine.

In ‘Save’ mode, the battery charge can be held (when outside a ULEV for example), calling on the range-extender technology, and then switched into ‘Pure EV’ mode when back in the urban cut and thrust.

The default ‘Smart’ mode uses the battery where possible and avoids starting the range-extender. Three models of regenerative braking can also help lengthen the all-electric range.

How long does it take to charge?
All TXs are fitted with both 50kW DC rapid and 11kW AC fast-charging capability, with 22kW AC available for £999.

From a 7kW home charging point, the TX’s battery is refilled in three hours and 45 minutes. That time rises two hours and 20 minutes at an 11kW charger but drops to 30 minutes when plugged into a 50kW unit.

LEVC has also equipped the TX with both CCS and CHAdeMO charging sockets, and the company states drivers can refill 50 miles of range during a 45-minute lunch break, minimising downtime.

What does it cost?
The entry-level £57,099 TX Vista offers auto lights and wipers, cruise control, front and rear climate control, a nine-inch colour touchscreen, on-board Wi-Fi, a panoramic roof, rear parking sensors, and 230V and USB sockets.

The Vista Comfort costs £58,399 and adds a heated windscreen and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. The Visa Comfort Plus also includes front parking sensors, a reversing camera, and navigation with traffic updates for £59,699.

All lost prices include the deduction of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) Plug-in Taxi Grant, which offers up to £7,500 off the price of zero-emission capable taxis as part of a £50 million fund.

PCP rates of £184 per week for the entry-level Vista target business users, along with Pay-as-you-drive and Hire Purchase schemes. LEVC claims savings of as much as £100 per week when it comes to running costs.

How much does it cost to tax?
In July 2019, the UK government introduced a raft of incentives to encourage the take-up of zero-emissions capable vehicles.

The TX is one of the vehicles which benefits from the new legislation, which exempts it from the premium rate of Vehicle Excise Duty. Only applicable to vehicles with a list price of over £40,000, a levy of £320 is usually added to the standard rate of £145 for vehicles that emit 1-50g/km of CO2 emissions.

At 20g/km (WLTP) the TX is tax-free in the first year of registration, due to the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount (AFD) which cancels out its £10 rate. Thereafter, the £145 standard rate with the AFD applies, levying the TX with a £135 per year charge.

Why does my taxi fleet need one?
Regardless of whether your taxi fleet needs one or not, from 2018 every new cab licensed for use as an official London Hackney Carriage needs to be capable of zero-emissions running and by 2020, these will be the only cabs allowed to be registered in London.

So, it’s just as well that the LEVC TX is both a useful and cleaner upgrade on the diesel-engined cabs that went before.

Practical, efficient and very much a smooth operator, the LEVC TX heralds a new dawn of London cabs. The electric running is a much more pleasant experience for the fare-paying passenger, and the on-board technological improvements not only make the taxi much cleaner, but also bring welcome gains for our ever-evolving digital lives.

The fast-charging options also point to minimal downtimes, and 25,000-mile servicing intervals also help with operability.

The LEVC TX has been designed by a company who has a history littered with creating vehicles of this type, and it shows.

Passengers and drivers both benefit from the electric era reboot, and if LEVC’s wider ambitions are as bold as it claims, the TX is an impressive start from a company that wants to turnaround the European electric commercial vehicle market.

Add in reduced running costs, and it’s easy to see how LEVC has already sold 2,500 TXs in the UK and Europe.