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The beginner's guide to LEVC

From the new-age TX to the Spice Girls at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, here's everything you need to know about LEVC

LEVC TX
  • What’s LEVC and when did it start making cars?

    LEVC

    LEVC was set up in 2013 by Chinese firm Geely. Er, what? Well, we’re going to cheat here and go back to 1919, when Bobby Jones set up a coachbuilding firm in Coventry.

    The name gave it away – harking back to a time when carmakers built rolling chassis for customers to add what they wanted on top, Carbodies made fancier versions of MG and Alvis cars through the Twenties. It expanded through to Rover, Railton and Rootes, even making aeroplane parts in World War Two.

    Carbodies landed the deal to make the Austin FX3 taxi’s body in 1948, then the FX4 in 1958. It was sold to the BSA Group in 1954, took on full production of the FX4 in 1971 (other projects included making the bonnet for Jag’s E-type), was sold to Manganese Bronze Holdings in 1973, then took over full rights for the FX4 in 1982.

    With taxis its bread and butter, Carbodies became London Taxis International in 1985. An all-new black cab, the TX1, arrived in 1997. In 2010 it was rebranded as The London Taxi Company and signed a deal with Geely for a Chinese factory for the overseas market. LTC went bust in 2012, Geely bought its assets in 2013 and kept the name going, before ditching it for the London EV Company (LEVC) badge in 2017.

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  • What’s the cheapest car that LEVC builds... and what’s the most expensive?

    LEVC VN5

    Strangely, for a company known for taxis, your cheapest way into an LEVC is by shelling out £53,950 for one of its VN5 vans in Business spec. This cargo carrying version of the TX cab has been on sale since 2019, and yes we’re surprised we’ve not seen more of them too. The VN5 has the same powertrain as the TX, with 74 miles of WLTP electric range but space for a pair of EUR2 pallets. Up front there are seats and a steering wheel.

    Getting into a taxi (sitting at the front) will cost you £59,773 for the Icon-spec TX including the £7,500 plug-in taxi grant. It’s a relatively bare bones spec – doesn’t even include the illuminated taxi sign. Definitely worth finding £3k for Vista spec – that model even comes with a cheeky CHAdeMO socket to use rapid charger plugs normally reserved for Nissan Leaf drivers. Sitting in the back starts from around £5 though.

  • What is LEVC’s fastest car?

    LEVC TX

    LEVC’s output is not known for either tyre shredding acceleration or scenery warping top speed, but a humble 13.2secs 0–62mph time won’t stop a black cab driver from smoking you at the lights. These precision professional drivers are honed to extract 100 per cent of their steed’s potential.

    Likewise we’re not sure whether a TX has ever actually hit its rather miserable 80mph top speed – there doesn’t seem to be the space within London or a passenger with the means to fund the car’s slow progress to vmax. Nevertheless, a black cab is invariably the quickest way to get from one point in central London to another short of marrying a royal and getting a police escort everywhere you go.

    Economy is the TX’s thing – LEVC reckons 100 miles out of the 34.6kWh battery round town, then it’s 32.2mpg from the range extender. Plenty of chargers south of the river...

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  • Where are LEVCs built and how many are sold a year?

    LEVC factory

    LEVCs are made in Coventry, where the firm has built a factory on the Ansty site where Rolls-Royce used to build engines for military jets. Its previous home was near the city centre, now demolished, facing a retail park built on the site of the once majestic Alvis factory. LEVCs are also made in China in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, more famous for its sock production and 8,000-mile cargo train link to Madrid. LEVC sold just over 2,500 vehicles in the last year we have numbers for – sounds teeny, but it was a record breaking year for the company. It also celebrated the 10,000th vehicle produced at its Ansty plant in March 2023.

  • What’s the best concept that LEVC ever made?

    LEVC SOA (space oriented architecture)

    LEVC’s never gone in much for concept cars in any of the its various forms – taxi drivers really just want a taxi they can drive, and grand visions of the future seem to revolve around doing them all out of a job.

    The closest we’ve seen to a concept reveal is the pictures we saw in May 2023 of LEVC’s new SOA (space oriented architecture) platform, which is a skateboard-style tech sandwich. The SOA will underpin EVs of several shapes and sizes, starting with this L380 MPV in 2026. No word yet on an electric taxi though. But given it's designed to offer a variety of different bodies (very much harking back to the origins of Carbodies) and a range of up to 432 miles, we've got our fingers crossed.

  • What was LEVC’s best moment?

    1968 Austin FX4

    At some point the black cab – specifically the version made by Carbodies/ LTI/LEVC, not any of the many pretenders to the throne – became an actual icon. And not in the well worn way that the term gets bandied about, an actual icon. It’s become a global visual shorthand for the UK, a way for Hollywood film producers to pretend a scene takes place in London without leaving Los Angeles (just make sure it’s raining though).

    The moment that paved the way for that to happen was when Carbodies got the original contract to make the body for the Austin FX3. That car only existed because influential London dealer Mann & Overton saw a market for a bespoke car with separate driver’s compartment that would meet the Public Carriage Office’s rules for London taxis. Carbodies got the deal because Austin was impressed with the work the firm did for it during World War Two making fighter plane panels.

  • What was LEVC’s worst moment?

    Geely

    When Carbodies took over manufacture of the FX4 in 1982 it was riding high – though British Leyland had given notice that it wouldn’t
    be producing the taxi’s diesel engine much longer because it had sold the factory. After testing various alternatives, Carbodies went for a Land Rover unit inside the black cab... which turned out to be a disaster. Poor reliability in the high mileage, low speed, stop start urban drudge saw sales drop as word of mouth spread through the cab driver community.

    That said, going bust in 2012 was a bit of a downer too. Geely had taken a 20 per cent chunk back in 2009, and there was an agreement to build black cabs partly in China with final assembly for the UK market in Coventry still. Weeks before going into administration LTI was forced to recall 400 black cabs because of faulty steering components... from a Geely supplier. Erp. Still, the Chinese firm was able to snap up the remains at a good price.

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  • What was LEVC’s biggest surprise?

    LEVC LTI FX4

    Let’s take ourselves back to the triumphant closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London. The crowd is apopleptic following the appearances of pop stars Ed Sheeran and Fatboy Slim, then Jessie J telling everyone it’s not about the money from the back of a Rolls-Royce Drophead convertible.

    Suddenly the shrieking spectators find another gear of hysterical appreciation as five veteran superstars appear in the stadium clad in dazzling bespoke outfits. Five LTI FX4s covered in LED panels displaying distinctive colour schemes – sure, the Spice Girls are standing on the roofs of the taxis shrieking in their own inimitable way, but the real stars of this segment feature shiny convex wheel hubs and a puzzled expression.

    A more recent surprise was the reveal of the LEVC L380 – the large electric MPV itself wasn’t a surprise, more the fact that LEVC expects us to pretend that it’s not a lightly messed with Zeekr 009 or Volvo EM90.

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