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London Black Cab Gets a Hardworking Plug-In Hybrid Van Version

This work van looks just like its TX taxi sibling.

Chalk this up as a really smart idea: The city of London's iconic black cab, built by LEVC, is getting a commercial van variant. It'll keep the cheeky, neo-retro looks that make the TX (its cab sibling) a local fixture, but the VN5 is longer and has a generous cargo compartment.

The VN5's payload specs are impressive. The little van can swallow two standard European pallets, and carry a total payload of 1,700 pounds. That's right smack in the middle of a Ford F-150's payload range, for example. The rear clamshell doors have a 60/40 split, and there's a single large side door that slides—a key distinction from the rear-hinged rear doors in the TX cab.

With the same plug-in hybrid powertrain used in the TX, the VN5 offers 63 miles of electric-only driving range and a total range of 301 miles. LEVC reckons that a typical London delivery route is about 47 miles one way, so it can accomplish most of that run in EV mode before heading back to its home base to recharge. On a 50-kW charger, a full charge of the van's battery could take as little as 30 minutes.

The electric motor is a 110-kW (148-hp) unit, backed up by a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that serves as a range extender. It's supplied by Volvo and made in China. LEVC is, like Volvo, owned by the Chinese automaker Geely, which explains the parts sharing.

Our colleagues at MotorTrend actually drove a TX a couple of years ago.  They found it a fascinating mix of traditional hackney carriage looks and a lot of high technology (and smart design), all of which benefited greatly from collaboration with Volvo designers and engineers. More importantly, the TX is quiet and composed, a good sign for the VN5's civility on the road.

Production of the VN5 is due to start later this year, and we don't expect it to hit these shores any time soon—or more likely, ever. But if you visit London next year, you might see some of these vans darting through a fleet of black TXs.

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