Car News: A New Taxi

A weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits

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Ye shall know it by its lack of an exhaust pipe

That black vehicle that hangs around in groups, does U-turns suddenly in front of you, that is given special fast lanes to drive in, driven usually by a man who can’t be bothered to get out and help you load your luggage, that’s called a taxi.

There’s a new one on the block, the TX Range-Extender. Bit of a mouthful for a name but it’s electric. The TX is not an all-electric vehicle because it features eCity technology – a battery electric powertrain with a small back-up petrol generator. Still, you won’t get choked by its diesel fumes when sitting behind it in traffic. It holds six people and is almost silent. It costs €59,950.

The Chinese, ever ready to sell goods to western tourists, is stealing a march on British companies. The Geely-owned taxi maker, is using a ride-and-drive exercise at the British embassy in Berlin, Germany, as a launch pad, the idea to announce an agreement with a north German taxi operator. The intention is to spread the silent word across the country and improve urban air quality and CO2 emissions. They make the taxis in the UK having invested £325 million pounds in a new Coventry factory. (When will Scotland get a car company?)

You won’t see many, there’s only 25 in existence, soon to multiply like rabbits. Most taxis look identical except the large type with a side sliding door. The TX has no roof taxi light, but probably will when sold in the United Kingdom.

The left-hand drive German taxis, are offered in a variety of colours as well as the traditional German taxi beige, delivered and serviced through the dealer network of Volvo. It may come as a surprise to readers to learn that great Swedish car maker is owned by the Chinese. Then again, the Chinese probably made the iPad or iPhone you’re using to read this article.

Norway, a country that could have been matched in democracy and wealth by Scotland had we declined to let England steal our oil, has a few running around, and there’s “significant interest” from taxi operators in France and the Netherlands.

When will we see leccy taxis here? Ask the TX company that question and you get the expected answer: the TX boss, Carl-Peter Foster, expresses “deep concern” over any threat Brexit might pose to the efficient functioning of the UK export motor industry. “Our business lives off a series of very tight collaborations,” he said. “Any threat to tariff-free trade or the efficient running of the industry is grounds for the deepest concern.”

‘Deep Concern’ sounds a little like a phrase uttered by the late Professor Stanley Unwin, but Foster isn’t joking. Brexit is screwing up everything. Life in the electric lane is so precarious they launched it in Germany first.

The taxi in the photograph (above) is in London made by LEVC – London Electric Vehicle Company – in Coventry. The driver owner is called Reginald who was born in Pakistan.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

World’s cheapest car

Indian conglomerate Tata has ended production of its Nano city car, which has long held the title of the world’s cheapest car. The Indian manufacturer experienced fast-falling demand for the Nano, with just one being sold last month – a 274 unit decrease on June 2017. Despite costing from as little as £1700, sales of the Nano, which uses a 625cc, twin-cylinder engine developing 35bhp, watched car sales rocket in India … except the Nano. Status, it seemed, is what car buyers want everywhere and the humble Nano was seen as too back-to-basics and down-market.

World’s most expensive micro car

Visiting a car design studio in Pasadena, Los Angeles, I spotted a student with a sketch of a mini-Bentley the size of a Fiat 500. He explained owning a small Bentley allowed  its wealthy owners to be seen being environmentally conscious. They used the small car for city driving, the normal size one for long distance driving. I loved the idea. To everybody’s surprise Aston Martin did exactly that by taking Toyota’s smallest vehicle, the micro iQ, calling it the Cygnet, and beefing up its design to look like an Aston Martin. The motoring press, every-ready to decry a good idea, ridiculed it not only because it kept its 1.3 litre engine, but also because it cost over £24,000 for what was essentially a wee Toyota. Aston Martin sold all they intended to make as a way to to reduce their overall emissions output. A second-hand one costs a mint.

Now their Q Department (named after the esteemed James Bond character) that tinkers with models has gone wild and produced a one-off Cygnet that uses the 430bhp V8 engine and running gear from the previous-generation Aston Vantage S. As you’d expect, it shifts like a bat out of hell. Acceleration is 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, quicker than the discontinued sports car that donated its engine. Top speed is 170mph, which is 64mph quicker than the standard, 1.3-litre-engined Cygnet could manage. What a pity Q Department didn’t experiment with Tesla batteries and market the vehicle.

Useless VW Polo engines

If you drive a Volkswagen Polo maybe wise to get your dealer to check its engine. A few too many owners are finding themselves stranded on the hard shoulder with a wrecked petrol TSI engine and a large bill after a cambelt, chain or tensioner pulley fail.

The TSI (turbocharged straight injection) engines are also fitted in Skoda, Audi and Seat models and have sold in large numbers, but some have been problematic for owners – even after significant changes in design. Tests show failing pulleys are a known problem with the 1.2 TSI engine. VW has recalled similar cars in Australia. Fed up with VW disasters draining profits, some UK dealers are changing the pulleys to prevent similar engine failures. The Consumer Rights Act gives owners recourse against the supplying dealer up to six years after purchase, but car dealers will often claim their liability ends with the warranty. The fault is another major headache for VW to grapple with on top of its emissions scandal, and monkeys used in exhaust tests.

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5 Responses to Car News: A New Taxi

  1. angusskye says:

    As you mentioned the silence of leccycars a couple of times, it makes me wonder if we should give them all some sort of noise when they are moving (not necessarily “vroom vroom”).

    The only experience I have of driving an electric vehicle was many years ago when Renault had a limited edition Kangoo that I was given as a courtesy car in Inverness whilst my own vehicle was being serviced. I nipped back and forward across Inverness picking up various things from shops and retail parks (as you do on a big day out from the islands). No-one heard me approaching in the streets or car parks and, as I didn’t want to seem to be rude by using the horn, I ended up creeping along after them until their sixth senses kicked in and they realised I was there. It was amusing at the time but there is a serious safety aspect to pedestrians not hearing vehicles.

    Maybe we need to launch a competition for the best sound to give a moving electrical vehicle.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    Good point you raise there, Angus.

    I know some manufacturers are thinking of adding a series of engine noises you can switch in volume to combat the problem. It will, as you imply, take time for pedestrians to get used to semi-silent vehicles – ‘semi’ because there’s always tyre noise.

  3. It’s a proven concept.
    I do a bit of dabbling in model railways and it’s an increasingly popular thing for modellers with digital control systems to have models equipped with sound chips, replicating the sounds of their models’ full-size equivalent. I’m sure the concept could extrapolate into a ‘sound chip’ for cars relatively easily.
    If they can get the sound of a Class 55 Deltic diesel into an electric car, I’ll have one! 😂

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    Ha ha! I bet you would, Max. An old steam train wouldn’t be the same. How about a jet engine?

  5. When you think about it, it could be a whole new aspect to boy racer car modification in the future! 😂

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