Chinese electric car maker BYD – in which legendary US investor Warren Buffett has a stake – and greentomatocars have signed a memorandum of understanding to create London’s first fleet of all-electric minicabs.

BYD, which makes hybrid and electric vehicles, will supply 50 of its electric e6 models for trial use in the UK capital.

The company greentomatocars claims to be London’s “second largest quality minicab service and strives to use the most environmentally-friendly vehicles available in its fleet of 300.”

The 50 electric cabs will be available for hire from the second quarter of 2013.

Minicabs operate under different rules to London’s traditional ‘black cabs’ in that they must be pre-booked, usually by phone or internet, and cannot ‘ply for hire’ – ie be hailed in the street.

London mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement: “It is my aim that London’s minicabs and taxis will be zero-emission by 2020 which will have a major impact on air quality. Every year the fleet is getting cleaner, making our city an even more attractive place to live, work and visit. Encouraging many more electric vehicles is a key part of this transformation, so it is great news that greentomatocars has committed to operating 50 of these super clean machines from next year.”

BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said: “We are delighted to supply greentomatocars with e6 vehicles that will create London’s first electric minicab fleet. The e6 has zero tailpipe emissions, so it avoids contributing to the city’s CO2 levels and results in cleaner air for Londoners.”

Jonny Goldstone, managing director of greentomatocars added:  “We are very pleased to be working with BYD on this project.  As a partner company, BYD has shown great leadership to challenge the status quo, innovate and electrify mass transport – principles which go to the very heart of greentomatocars.”

“As a car, we see strong parallels between the e6 of today and the then-unfashionable Toyota Prius [hybrid] of 2006. It’s exciting to think that, even as a five-car start up, we played a major role in making the Prius popular; given the scale, experience and high-tech infrastructure we now have at our disposal, we’d love to ‘do a Prius’ with the e6, and help propel electric vehicles into the automotive mainstream – where they deserve and, for all our sakes, need to be.”

BYD has also been supported in this deal by London & Partners, the mayor’s official promotional organisation for London.

The five-seat e6 is a crossover said to have “a spacious interior that lends itself perfectly to the private hire market, with substantial legroom and headroom for passengers, as well as ample luggage capacity”. It is a zero-direct-emission electric vehicle.

BYD e6 taxis are said to be “well-proven and have already driven a total of more than 14m miles in key global markets”.

The e6 has a 75kW motor and BYD’s own Fe (iron phosphate) battery which gives the car a range of up to 186 miles on a single charge in urban conditions with a top speed of 87mph and instant torque providing excellent acceleration. The Fe battery can be fully charged and discharged for over 4,000 cycles.

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