London taxi cabs are known the world over for their distinctive shape and black colouring – and soon they will be made in Bari, Italy thanks to British engineering firm Frazer-Nash Research.
The British firm has signed an agreement in Rome with Bari-based company and forklift maker, Om Carrelli Elevatori, to produce the famous black cabs. The agreement brings the end to a series of disputes with Om’s former owners that threatened the factory’s existence and the livelihoods of many in the Italian city. One of Om’s previous owners transferred forklift production to Germany and then another wanted the factory to produce televisions.
According to ‘La Repubblica’, after a €60 million investment from Frazer-Nash, Om will produce Frazer-Nash’s hybrid-powered taxi, the MetroCab, the technology for which is the result of 20 years’ of research. The environmentally-friendly vehicle is designed to meet European regulations that come into effect in 2020 that require new vehicle CO2 emissions to not exceed 95g/km.
Frazer-Nash made a commitment is to re-employ all the 224 Om workers who are currently laid off over three years. However, there is also the possibility that if Frazer-Nelson receives sufficient orders for the taxi, it could hire new employees, seeing staff figures rise to 294 by 2016.
The British company is hoping to fulfill an order by the City of London for more than 10,000 taxis within the next 15 years. From 2015, the Bari factory will be capable of producing 1,200 cars and more than 3,000 in 2016.
The MetroCab’s emissions during a day of trips around London are claimed to be less than 50g/km of CO2 emissions, while still meeting the demanding standards required of London taxis, in particular regarding their turning circle that can be as little as 25 feet (8 m). The small turning circle came about to accommodate the small roundabout at the entrance of the city’s Savoy Hotel.
Frazier-Nash’s Extended-Range Electric Vehicles like the MetroCab are solely electric. Their compact internal combustion engines recharge the battery pack but never drive the wheels and – in a strange twist of fate – they still rely on the highly inefficient mechanical differential invented by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The British firm has a reputation for innovation. In the early 20th century, when the car industry was in its infancy, Archibald Frazer-Nash and Henry Ronald Godfrey formed Frazer-Nash to produce affordable motor vehicles. More recently, Frazer-Nash supplied more than 100 electric vehicles to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia and more than 350 to the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics.