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The First London Electric Cabs - Nothing New here!

Electric Cabs in London

When we think about electric Cabs we think of recent times regarding pollution and emissions within our cities, however you would be wrong to think that an electric Cab only came to us in the last few years.

When did the first electric Cab appear on the streets of London?

You might be surprised to learn that the first electric Cab first came to the streets of London not in 2000’s but in 1897, yep you read correctly, over 100 years ago!

Walter Bersey designed the first Electric London Cab

The Bersey was the first electric London Cab

Walter Charles Bersey (1874-1950) was the man behind the new electric London cabs he also designed electric buses, and private cars. He was the general manager at the London Electrical Cab Co.

24 of The Bersey Cabs were manufactured by the Great Horseless Carriage Co, then a further 50 by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co, altogether it is thought that around 80 cabs were built.
Due to their colour of black and yellow, and due to the buzzing noise they made, they were nicked named ‘The Hummingbirds’.

Each Cab would have 2 sets of batteries which made them suitable to travel 40 miles on just one charge. A hydraulic lift was required to change the batteries, and there was only one charging station located in London

12 Bersey’s were first unveiled at the South Kensington Motor show in 1896 and the following year began taking passengers around August 1897.

The Bersey Electric London Cabs lined up

The Bersey Cabs were licensed by Scotland yard, and they had to meet certain criteria in order to be allowed to function as a cab, they were-

  • Every vehicle had to have a driver
  • The Bersey had to be able to stop
  • The cab had to be able to turn around in a small space
  • It had to be able to climb Savoy Hill in London, which is the steepest hill in London

The electric cabs could reach 9-12 mph. The electric cabs took part in the London to Brighton race, however due to the distance of 60 miles, it is said they had to do part of the journey by train.

What was the demise of the first electric London Cabs?

Unfortunately after only 6 months of use the electric London cabs were prone to breaking down, and were much slower than the horse drawn cabs.
The noise of the electric cabs would become louder, and the vibrations would become excessive causing damage to the delicate glass plates.
The tyres would wear very quickly given the huge weight (2 Tonne) they had to carry.

After just 2 years the electric cabs disappeared from the London streets, and over 100 years later they are coming back!