United Kingdom
Sector: LPG

LPG black cabs unleashed in London

If you haven't heard about the iconic British black cabs, you've been living under a rock. But you'll be forgiven for not knowing some of them have been converted to run on autogas instead of diesel. And here's where you can find out more about it.

Having completed a successful trial run in Birmingham, where 65 re-powered GasCab taxis were deployed to reduce NOX and particulate matter emissions in the city, black cabs running on autogas instead of diesel are now coming to the British capital. Transport for London has already put a stamp of approval on the deal.

A re-powered LPG black cab taxi in London© becomes it - black cabs have been running on diesel for too long

Remember that London has congestion charges, so there are fewer private cars in the centre than in other cities and taxis account for more traffic than they otherwise would. To be precise, they constitute 17% of central London traffic and pollute considerably, since they are all diesel-powered. Until now, that is.

Re-powering the black cabs means replacing the engine altogether (from a diesel to a converted petrol one), because it offers better economical and environmental results than converting a diesel to run partially on LPG. With the next generation of black cabs, engineered and manufactured by the London Taxi Company (subsidiary of Chinese company Geely Automobile), it should be easier to get them converted to run on LPG, because they feature petrol-electric hybrid powertrains. They will be much cleaner than today's diesels by definition, but boosting their economical performance is always tempting.

Besides, there are 44 thousand black cabs all over Britain, so replacing them all with hybrids will take years. The GasCab re-powering solution is much cheaper and eliminates the risk of "transplanting pollution", i.e. moving decomissioned diesel cabs to be used elsewhere. Scrapping diesel-powered vehicles altogether is also not an option, since many of them are perfectly serviceable. In fact, TfL (Transport for London) will extend the re-powered taxis' working life by another five years in recognition of the benefits LPG provides (97% NOX emissions reduction and Euro 6 compliance) and the fact that new engines (Opel's 2-litre turbo Ecotec units) are installed.

As for the engines themselves (known e.g. from the Opel Astra GTC), they are detuned from the original 280 PS and mapped to best resemble the oil-burning units they replace. This way drivers feel no difference in performance and since the converted engines run at approx. 30% of their original capacity, they are much more durable. They are also optimised to run on autogas and to comply with the strictest emission standards in operation today. And their environmental record is set to further improve as BioLPG, made from organic waste, is being added to regular autogas available from several suppliers across the UK.

Changing their fuel from diesel to LPG, black cabs should actually change their colour, too – black no longer matches their performance in terms of pollution. But on the other hand, they look so well painted black on the outside... We suppose they can be forgiven for wearing black paint, as their colour is an inseparable part of their iconic appearance.


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Robert Markowski
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