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There has always been something iconic about English taxis. Whether it’s their spacious seating or knowledgeable drivers, their black outlines are instantly recognizable around the world. Yet, in recent years the industry has been experimenting not only with design but also with its means of propulsion.  Opening itself to innovation, one Chinese company has offered an electric alternative that may create London’s first fleet of all-electric minicabs. Potentially changing the way we get around the city, could this be the next great step in the green revolution?

According to MSN, the Chinese firm BYD has announced last Thursday that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create an all-EV fleet of taxis in association with London’s second-largest minicam service, Greentomatocars. They plan to supply the capital city with 50 pure electric e6 trial models, hoping to increase the number to some 300 for use from the second quarter of 2013.

The five-seat vehicle will be a zero-direct-emission electric crossover similar to Nissan’s concept Qashqai. Its chief selling points have been its range of over 185 miles and its zero emission standards. These figures make it a considerably better choice than London’s black cabs which average 35mph and emit more than 200g/km of CO2.

John Goldstone of Greentomatos cars drew parallels between his company’s partnership with BYD and their ‘then-unfashionable’ Toyota Prius endeavour in 2006. He said that “It’s exciting to think that, even as a 5-car start up, we played a major role in making the Prius popular, Given the scale, experience and high-tech infrastructure we now have at our disposal, we’d love to “do a Prius” with the e6, and help propel electric vehicles into the automotive mainstream – where they deserve and, for all our sakes, need to be.”

Commenting on this development, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said that “It is great news that Greentomatocars has committed to operating 50 of these super clean machines from next year. It is my aim that London’s minicabs and taxis will be zero-emission by 2020, which will have a major impact on air quality. Encouraging many more electric vehicles is a key part of this transformation.”

What will certainly be seen as the next stride forward in economic and environmental driving, the development is certainly going to set an important standard for the industry. While a great deal more needs to be done to make even this development a reality, its likely to change the state of public transportation forever, making green the only acceptable colour on the road.