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British icons.

London taxis - from black to green

Taxis are among the iconic images of London, and London's black taxis can be seen all over the world. But London taxis are not all black, and in the 2020s they are going green.
London black taxiA zero-emission hybrid London black taxi for the 2020s

Think of London, and what iconic images come into your mind?
Big Ben? Tower Bridge?  Soldiers in red uniforms? Or do you think of red buses? Or black taxis?
All of these are icons which people often think of, when they think of London.

Only two cities in the world are famous for their taxis: London and New York. New York's iconic taxis are usually yellow; London's are black. But why black?

 Many years ago, when London's first motor taxis appeared, almost all cars were painted black. This was the age when in America, Henry Ford, who built Ford cars, famously said: “You can have any color you like, as long as it’s black!”. In Ford’s time, almost all cars were black…. Everywhere!
Things are different today; cars come in all colours, even London taxis. There are red ones and green ones, ones with pictures on them and ones with advertising all over them; but there are still plenty of “black cabs” too.
 London's traditional taxis are very special cars, and they are different from ordinary cars. They are specially built as taxis, with a section at the front for the driver, and a section at the back for passengers. They have lots of room for luggage, and they can turn 180° in a very small circle (about 8 metres).

However London taxis are changing fast. Most taxis have diesel engines, and they cause pollution. Since November 2021 London taxis must all meet the Euro-6 emissions standard. Basically this means that there are no longer any taxis in London built before 2008. Many taxi-drivers are unhappy, because London taxis are built to last for 20 years or more!

More changes are already coming; before long all London taxis will have to be ZEVs (zero emission vehicles); they will have to run on electricity or on hydrogen. London’s biggest taxi company, which has 4,000 cabs, plans to be all electric by 2023.

 Becoming electric will be the biggest change to London’s taxis in over 100 years. Some new London taxis are now just ordinary SUVs; but others still look like traditional taxis. And a lot of them are still black!

Word guide
head, imagination -   advertising: publicity -   room: space -   luggage: bags, baggage -   emissions: the gas that is produced by motors -   standards: norms, minimum levels -  before long : soon -  run on : use, be powered by.

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Interactive Worksheet

London's taxis - from black to green

Here are some half sentences: can you complete them, so that they reflect the information that you
can find in the article.  You can type your text into the answer boxes.
1. You can have any color you like, as . .
1. You can have any color you like, as
2. Most taxis have diesel engines, and .
2. Most taxis have diesel engines, and
3. Since November 2021 all London taxis must meet the . .
3. Since November 2021 all London taxis must meet the .
4.  There are no longer any taxis in London . .
4.  There are no longer any taxis in London . .
5. London taxis are built to . .
5. London taxis are built to .
5. London taxis are built to .
5. London taxis are built to .
7.  London’s biggest taxi company plans. .
7.  London’s biggest taxi company plans. .

For teachers:

One and all: This text deliberately illustrates use of the pro-forms one and all.
All is used in a variety of different contexts: all of these / all cars / almost all cars / all colours / all over them / all London taxis  /   London taxis must all meet  /  all electric.
For the grammar and uses of all see All on the Linguapress grammar.

Spelling: note the word color / colour. It is one of those rare words that is spelt differently in British English and American English. This text is about London, and in British English: but the quote from Henry Ford is an American quote, so color is spelt the American way.

Initials - acronyms The word SUV has spread to many languages; but what does it mean? Answer: Sport Utility Vehicle.  The word ZEV is less well-known.

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Level - Intermediate.
CEFR LEVEL :  B2 intermediate
IELTS Level :  5 - 6 
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:   72.7  Fairly easy  
Grade level: 6.1
Intermediate level EFL resource
Level: intermediate
Target readers : teenagers, young adults

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