At an event in London last week, Volkswagen revealed the third in a series of city-specific customizations of its electric Taxi Concept. According to Autocar, the commercial fleet EV is being “seriously considered” for production by VW executives, and could be well positioned to compete globally for large orders from cities looking to cut the emissions of their cabs. (A movement that's been a longer in the making than many might realize.)
The first Taxi Concept debuted in Milan this past April, followed by a June showing in Berlin. This time, the car was painted to pay homage to London's black cabs, which the company says were a major source of inspiration to its designers as they set out to create a modern dedicated plug-in that would meet the needs of passengers, fleet owners, and hacks alike.
In its preliminary research—much of which came from real-world studies of the habits of New York City yellow cabs—Volkswagen found that the average taxi trip transports just 1.4 people. This discovery lead designers to look to an idea first pioneered by the black cab: the front passenger seat storage area.
Where one would usually find a cab driver's clipboard, sweatshirt or perhaps half-eaten lunch, VW has placed a compartment for luggage. This gave designers the freedom to move the rear seating all the way to the back, providing more legroom. VW says it may offer an optional fourth seat if the car ever hits production, but thinks that its perfectly suited as is for the majority of fares.
The VW taxi's lithium ion battery pack is capable of providing upwards of 180 miles of range in ideal conditions, so understandably, the car is significantly heavier than the E-Up! city car on which it's powertrain is based. Volkswagen also seems to have tuned the vehicle specifically for city driving—with the car's maximum speed governed down by about 10 percent, to 75 mph.
At 12 feet in length, the vehicle's body is nearly a foot longer than the E-Up! and seems to be based more on VW's Space-Up! concept, which is the 4-door variant in the company's planned New Small Family vehicle series.
Features unique to the concept—other than having three seats of course—include a glass roof, sliding passenger-side door, rear LCD touchscreen, and repositioned C-pillar, (which was moved forward to provide even further legroom.)
Volkswagen has already entered into an agreement to supply New York with clean diesel Jetta TDI cabs as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's contentious efforts to green his city's taxis. Given the company's ties to the Big Apple and the role the city played in the development of the car, one can't help but wonder if perhaps we'll see a yellow checkered version of the Taxi Concept somewhere down the line. (The New York International Auto Show is just around the corner.)