A prototype electric version of the Mercedes Vito Taxi has been designed and built in just six months by a consortium of British technology companies.

Part-funded by the UK Government’s Advantage Niche Vehicle Research & Development Programme, the prototype vehicle meets the demanding requirements of the London Carriage Office and can carry up to six people more than 120 kilometres on a single six hour charge.

The E-Vito taxi uses a new 70kW version of Zytek’s proven electric drivetrain and a custom-designed Vocis gearbox built by Graziano. To maximise interior space, the vehicle has been converted to front wheel drive to allow the 35kWh Valence Li-Ion battery pack to be installed beneath the vehicle floor. By lowering the centre of gravity, the low mounting point also improves vehicle stability and ride quality. A steerable rear axle provides the tiny 25ft (7.6m) turning circle required by all licensed black cabs operating in London.

The electric drive uses the existing engine mounting points with minor revisions and requires just three additional connections (water, high voltage electrics and low voltage electrics). It interfaces with all existing vehicle systems including ABS (Antilock Braking System), ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) and OBD (onboard diagnostics).

Zytek Automotive sales and marketing director Steve Tremble says that all the technologies are market-ready and thoroughly proven in vehicles already in production. “We could easily have electric taxis in service in-time for the 2012 London Olympics,” he says.

The partners in the programme are Zytek, Valence Technology, Penso and Mercedes-Benz UK, which donated the base vehicle.