The 1897 London Electric Cab: It would take 120 years for another EV London Taxi

The 1897 London Electric Cab: It would take 120 years for another EV London Taxi

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You might be surprised to know that the electric cabs which hit the streets of London last October were not the first ever London electric cabs. In fact 120 years ago, 75 electric cabs roamed the streets of London.

In the 1890’s Walter Bersey designed the Bersey Electric cab, he was an electrical engineer who had already produced electric cars, an electric bus and an electric Van. He launched the Bersey Electric Cab (which became known as the London Electric Cab) in 1897 and it had some massive performance figures relative to an electric car in 1897.

The car was fitted with 40 gold plated batteries which allowed the motor to produce 8 horsepower and reach a top speed of 12 mph which to put in perspective is 13 mph less than the top speed of Usain Bolt.

The batteries weight 711 kg, produced 170 ampere hours and went through a “shake test” to ensure they could stand up to the roads of London at the time which were still cobbled for horses.

Driving this cab must have been a doddle by comparison to the pesky ICE cabs which would come later as the speed was a simple selector to give a speed of either 3, 7 or 9 mph, however this could be tweaked to reach its top speed of 12 mph when you were out for a day at the drag strips with Usain’s grandaddy. In the event of needing to stop, you simply press a break pedal which would disconnect the electric circuit and the motors would slow you down.

The carriage of the car was built by Mulliners and designed to look like a horse drawn carriage, that means there is a chance that Richard Hammond’s grandfather also worked on this.

Range, much like the Nissan Leaf, was a bit of an issue with a range of somewhere between 30-35 miles which would just about see the cabbies through the day and solid rubber tires were added to allow grip on London’s greasy roads. The cab got the nickname “Hummingbird” for how it sounded as it passed by onlookers on the street and all in all 77 of these were produced with 75 in service.

So while Nissan and the London Taxi crowd were ecstatic about their new London Electric cabs in October of last year, it turns out old Walter beat them to the punch by 122 years.