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London's black cabs go plug-in hybrid with generous new funding initiative

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) A man hires a taxi in London, England, Great Britain (April 14, 2016). London has distinct taxis. The project to build plug-in hybrid versions of the iconic London black cab is about to receive a significant new dose of funding.

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The project to build plug-in hybrid versions of the iconic London black cab is about to receive a significant new dose of funding.

The company that makes the cabs, London Taxi Company (LTC), is now owned by the Chinese carmaker Geely.

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That company—which also owns Volvo—has already provided cash and design input.

Now, it's planning a bond issue to raise £276 million (about $400 million) to develop the plug-in hybrid taxis.

Geely expects its so-called "Green Bond" issue to be oversubscribed, to the tune of £1.6 billion ($2.3 billion), according to WardsAuto.

The bonds were issued through LTC, and proceeds will be used to fund design, development, and production of the new TX5 plug-in taxi.

Geely previously committed $77.2 million for a new British factory that will eventually build the TX5. The factory site in Ansty, Warwickshire, will also house Geely's U.K. R&D center.

That is part of a promised $386.1 million investment in LTC, excluding proceeds from the bond issue.

The TX5 was also designed at Geely's studio in Barcelona.

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From the outside it looks fairly similar to previous London cabs, but the new model boasts lighter composite body panels, and an aluminum body structure.

LTC has promised the ability to operate for significant distances on electric power alone.

However, that depends on the creation of charging infrastructure to support the plug-in hybrid taxi fleet.

Without regular charging, environmental benefits will decrease as cabs cover fewer miles on electric power.

LTC plans to launch the TX5 in the U.K. in 2017, and internationally in 2018.

The company will also reportedly pursue other green projects like light commercial vehicles, in an attempt to increase overall production, according to Wards.

When the TX5 hits London's streets next year, it will operate alongside another iconic London vehicle receiving a green makeover courtesy of a Chinese company.

Earlier this year, London's first all-electric double-decker bus entered service.

It was the first of five from Chinese firm BYD, and operates alongside an existing fleet of electric single-decker buses.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.