NYC begins electric taxi pilot

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is an EV champion, encouraging a massive rollout of public chargers, and setting a goal of electrifying a third of the city’s taxis by 2020.

 

Will New York City be setting the trend or trying to hold back the tide as the nation electrifies its vehicle fleets?

On one hand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is an EV champion, encouraging a massive rollout of public chargers, and setting a goal of electrifying a third of the city’s taxis by 2020. On the other hand, the city is debating a plan to replace all of Gotham’s yellow cabs (including 6,000 or so hybrids) with gas-burning Nissan NV200 vans, which have been given the Orwellian name Taxi of Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a pilot program is “looking ahead to the taxi of the day after tomorrow,” as Mayor Bloomberg put it. The New York Times reported that the city will introduce six Nissan LEAFs into the taxi fleet this week. However, there’s an obvious problem with the idea of using EVs as taxis: cabbies around the world try to keep their vehicles rolling every possible minute, and time spent charging may mean money out of their pockets.

David Yassky, the city’s taxi commissioner, told the Times that the pilot program will attempt to “figure out how a taxi driver can integrate 60 to 90 minutes of charging into a day. Frankly, just as important, it’s to show other taxi drivers that it can be done.” Yassky expects that drivers will need to plug their LEAFs in during their shifts, estimating that 30 minutes of charging allows about 80 miles of driving, and that some drivers travel 100 miles on a typical day.

Drivers of the pilot vehicles, who volunteered to participate, will have the privilege of turning down passengers based on their destinations, to avoid concerns about running out of juice. “They’re pioneers,” Mr Yassky said. “We want to give them the leeway.”

Naturally, some drivers have their doubts. “You can’t go charge in the middle of your shift,” cabbie Fahd Khan told the Times. He would agree to drive an EV only if his daily rental cost were reduced to compensate him for the charging time.

Others are more optimistic. Yahyia Gassem said he would have no problem with a 30-40 minute pause to charge. “You take a break sometimes longer than that. It’s for the environment.” Haseeb Khan told the Times that charging stations should be placed near restaurants and washrooms. “For taxi drivers, washroom is the biggest problem,” he said. “We go to Starbucks.”

Driver Uppkar Thind, in a video interview with CNN is even more upbeat. He says city driving conditions are ideal for the LEAF, and that the time lost to charging is offset by the savings in fuel costs.

 

Sources: Nissan, New York Times, CNN