Taxis are often a controversial topic and are usually in the news for the wrong reasons. Just look at this article on how my taxi’s charge poses problems for students who won’t be able to afford their services anymore. But now there’s finally some good news! Attempts are being made to make the industry greener. This is because this week, New York City plans to introduce 6 all-electric Nissan Leaf vehicles into its taxi fleet. Can electric taxis one day become as emblematic of NYC as the checker cabs of yesteryear?
The answer is yes…if we want them to be. There are two factors that stand in the way: accessibility to charging stations and willingness (from the public and cabbies). According to the New York Times article, Electric-Taxi Experiment Asks if City’s Cabbies Can Spare the Time to Plug In, “Some cabbies have expressed doubts about the viability of an electric taxi, arguing that any charging break would undercut earnings.” Taxi drivers undoubtedly don’t get into their field of work due to a desire to reduce their effect on the environment. Therefore, if we’re going to institute a program aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of taxicabs, it needs to be done with as little disturbance to those operating the cabs as possible. David S. Yassky, the city’s taxi commissioner, estimated that 30 minutes of charging would yield roughly 80 miles of driving in the city. All drivers would most likely need to plug in during their shifts, leading to the question of how to make this worthwhile for cabbies? Perhaps a stipend should be given to drivers who choose an EV like the Leaf over a conventional gas vehicle; or, to further compensate for the savings in gasoline, free charging at any station; or a significant reduction in the cost of a medallion (usually over $700,000) for the purchase of an EV, the savings of which can be distributed between that car’s cab drivers.
NYC isn’t reinventing the wheel here…in the late 19th/early 20th century’s the city was crawling with electric cabs. Soon after Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company was overtaken by the Electric Vehicle Company in 1898, there were over 1000 electric cabs up and running. The technology and, more importantly, the need for electric vehicles is greater than ever. Nissan’s contract to be the sole provider of nearly all taxis is valid through 2021, leaving more than enough time to integrate an EV taxi program that addresses the concerns of cabbies as well as NYers. Let’s do the right thing and help make the Leaf blossom this spring.