19th August 1897 London Electric Cab Company appeared on London roads


1897 London Electric Cab Company

Inventor Walter Bersey. The electric taxis could go 9-12mph and appeared on the roads on this day. They were yellow carriages and were known as “hummingbird”, because of its yellow and black colour and because it made a noise. A silly rule had hampered motor cars the year before, they still had to abide the “Red Flag Rule”,  which meant a man carrying a red flag had to walk in front of any vehicle, that was not horse-drawn, to warn people it was approaching! 1896 finally saw the end of the red flag syndrome. The Electric taxi went on display that the South Kensington motor show of 1896. It had electric lights inside and outside. A 2.2kw Lundell motor and used batteries that had to be charged at a station in Lambeth, only taking a few minutes. It weighed around 2 Tonnes, which was its demise the small tyres couldn’t handle the weight and cost too much to keep replacing. Scotland Yard licensed them under conditions A. Being able to drive up a steep hill,” Savoy Hill” B. Being able to turn in a small space. C. A driver had to be on board  D. That it could stop when requested. By 1899 these electric taxis started to go into decline. The culprit was pressure from the press and London cab drivers who saw this all as a threat and started smear campaigning the electric taxis as having issues with safety etc.

Vintage style Taxi stand lamp outside the Houses of Parliament Westminster
Vintage style Taxi stand lamp outside the Houses of Parliament Westminster
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David Lauder
10 months ago

As well as tyre costs, another running cost was replacing the batteries. These lasted for about two years and it seems that this had not been factored into the per-mile running costs, so that when the batteries needed replacing, the company went out of business. This is still an issue more than 120 years later for all electric vehicles, cars, buses or bicycles. All rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge and discharge cycles before they need replacing and the per-mile cost for battery replacement can be for more than the per-mile cost of electricity used.

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