A new hybrid version of the iconic black London taxi has nabbed a top prize at The Engineer's Technology and Innovation Awards. The zero-emissions vehicle debuted this summer and won in the Energy category, joining nine other prizewinners in other categories, including a self-landing helicopter, a stem cell concentrating device, and an improved bobsled. It's the fourth year of the awards , sponsored by The Engineer magazine.
The Fuel Cell Hybrid Black Cab was created by Intelligent Energy and several other partners, and was partly funded by the British government's Technology Strategy Board. A small fleet of about 20 hybrid cabs is due to hit the streets of London by 2012; they're being road-tested now. The demands on a cab are grueling: the hybrid has a 250-mile range, a refueling time of just five minutes, and the same amount of passenger and trunk space as the typical black cab. The engine is in fact underneath the driver, as this schematic image illustrates.
“We’ve transformed a London icon into a state-of-the art, low carbon, zero emission vehicle,” said Dr. Ashley Kells, the program's manager, in a release . Some cabbies themselves are clamoring to try it out: "Cab drivers are interested in test driving the taxi (we have received many emails asking for test drives) and will be given the opportunity next year," Intelligent Energy spokesman Will Stanley tells Fast Company.
London's taxi reboot comes at the same time that New York's iconic yellow cabs are also getting a redesign. The Ford Crown Victoria so familiar on the streets of Manhattan is being phased out, and New York has initiated a competition  called "Taxi of Tomorrow." Nissan, Ford, and the Turkish company Karsan are vying for the rights to the city's exclusive contract.
A close runner-up for coolness at The Engineer awards, in our view, is this auto-landing system  for an unmanned helicopter. Researchers developed a novel image-processing system that lets the unmanned vehicle determine a suitable landing space on its own. Are you listening, Mr. Bond?
[Image: Flickr user IntelligentEnergy ]