The most recent edition of the Fully Charged Show reviewed a new London taxi that has been designed from the ground up as a range extended electric vehicle, using the latest techniques to keep the weight down while still providing space for 6 passengers and still being recognisable as the iconic London black cab. In addition, it comes with a lot of extra tech and comfort features for the driver.
That got me thinking about the taxis around here in San Francisco, and in New York where their yellow taxis are almost as iconic as the London black cabs.
San Francisco’s taxi fleet is very mixed; there is not a single iconic vehicle that really represents an SF taxi. That means that there is little reason not to incorporate new, more efficient vehicles into the fleet and for many years now the taxi firms in SF have done just that, including many Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, and Ford Escape Hybrid taxis into the fleet. Additionally, some of the older Crown Victorias have been converted to run on CNG too. None of the larger firms I checked had any pure EV taxis, though they all use hybrids extensively.
The situation in New York is a little more confusing. There is a list of vehicles that are allowed to be used as taxis in the city:
The iconic Crown Victoria has gone (Ford stopped making them a few years ago forcing taxi companies, and police departments, around the country to select new vehicles). The replacement selected in New York is the Nissan NV200 (in ICE powered “van” style vehicle). However, the mayor also set a goal in 2013 to switch one third of the city’s yellow taxis to electric by 2020. Selecting an ICE vehicle as the preferred taxi does not align well with that goal.
Only two vehicles on the approved list are even hybrids, and there are no EVs (although the Nissan NV200 has an electric version in Europe, it is not yet available in the US). Back in 2013, the city’s taxi authority ran a pilot program with Nissan Leaf’s, but the results were not impressive with most drivers switching back to their regular vehicles before the one year pilot completed. The relatively short range of the Leaf, a lack of fast chargers in Manhattan at the time, as well as some unrealistic requirements for the drivers selected for the pilot probably didn’t help. With the range of the entry vehicles in the EV space going up over 200 miles (almost three times the range of the Leafs that were used in the pilot), and more and more fast chargers popping up, the viability of the electric taxi for cities like New York should be improving all the time.
Ride Hailing Apps
The last few years have seen a massive explosion in the use of ride hailing apps. The likes of Uber and Lyft are well known to people in large cities, and the range of vehicles being driven for them is much wider. I often see Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt vehicles in SF with ride hailing service stickers in their windows now, so while getting an EV taxi from the conventional taxis isn’t an option, you might get lucky and get one from a ride hailing app. As more and more vehicles switch, the air in the city should get cleaner and cleaner too which is a good thing for all of us who live and/or work there.