London has debuted the first wave of hybrid electric black cabs, with six of the capital's high-tech taxis hitting the streets ahead of a wider rollout later this year.

The TX5 black cab has been designed to look like the current FX4 model, but with a few modern bells and whistles to go along with its electric battery and petrol engine set-up. The hybrid build ensures that London's iconic cabs will meet the "zero emission capable" requirement that will be introduced for all new taxis or private-hire vehicles by 1 January 2018.

The hybrid vehicles have been designed to capture the "spirit of past generations" of black cabs and are made from lightweight aluminium. The cabs are capable of travelling just over 70 miles purely on its electric battery, and over 400 miles when combined with the petrol engine.

For the customer, new features include seating for up to six passengers (up from five), a panoramic glass roof, Wi-Fi, charging points for smartphones and laptops, and contactless card machines.

The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) – formerly The London Taxi Company – claims that the LX5 drivers will be the "world's most connected cabbies" thanks to an on-board sat-nav that identifies congestion and plans alternative routes, offers access to online charge-point maps and can even integrate with hailing apps like Gett and MyTaxi.

"We will now be able to accurately quantify the significant improvements these vehicles will make to London's air quality which will benefit all Londoners regardless of whether you use taxis or not," said Chris Gubbey, CEO of the LEVC. "For those that do, the experience will be transformational."

The new black cabs are not the only signature British vehicles enjoying an electric overhaul. In August, Royal Mail introduced nine prototype electric vans to its London fleet.

Electric black cabs
Six hybrid black cabs have arrived in London ahead of a wider rollout later this year. LEVC