Starting in April, Nissan will begin to pilot six all electric LEAF vehicles as New York City taxis. This vehicle runs exclusively on electricity and never needs to fill up at the gas station.
The electric taxis will be operated by both taxi fleets and by owner-operators who independently own and drive their own taxicabs. Each fleet or owner-operator will have an electric charger installed at his home or fleet garage and drivers will have access to "quick charging" stations allowing the vehicles to be recharged to nearly full capacity in less than 30 minutes. These quick chargers are the first-ever in New York City, and two will be available to members of the public who want to charge their electric vehicles.
LEAF taxi drivers will continue providing the same service as they always have - picking up and dropping off New Yorkers all over the city, during the day and at night – and will charge the exact same rate as regular cabs do. The one-year pilot will provide a wealth of information to the City of New York and the taxi industry to learn what it would take to bring about successful broader adoption of electric vehicles as New York City taxis.
The Electric Taxi pilot program is an opportunity for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Nissan and the taxi industry to gather information – both quantitative data and the personal experiences of real New York taxi passengers, drivers and owners – so that we can evaluate what it would take to bring about successful broader adoption of electric taxis. We believe electric taxis could be an important step towards improving our air quality and decreasing our carbon footprint, consistent with PlaNYC – the mayor’s blueprint for a more sustainable city. We also recognize the complexity of the taxi industry and the need to understand what vehicle technology, charging infrastructure, and economic structure would need to be in place for electric vehicles to take a prominent place in New York City taxi operations.
From the pilot program, we hope to learn the following:
Will taxi drivers change the way they organize their work day - such as shift start and end times or break times - when driving an all-electric taxi? Or will the driver's day flow much as it does today?
Will taxi drivers change their driving styles, such as braking patterns, to optimize battery range or otherwise adapt to the electric taxi?
What is the vehicle battery range when, and does the range of an electric vehicle limit driver’s ability to serve passengers with more distant destinations? What environmental benefits could NYC expect from a more sizeable electric taxi fleet?
What advantages and disadvantages do taxi drivers and owners experience when driving and maintaining an electric vehicle?
Does the range of an electric vehicle limit drivers' ability to serve passengers with more distant destinations?
What charging infrastructure is most helpful for drivers? What problems, if any, do drivers experience with keeping their vehicles charged?
While the Electric Taxi Pilot, electric taxis, and electric vehicles themselves are in many ways representative of modern technology and an increasingly environmentally-conscious world, the first electric taxis were actually on the roads of New York as early as 1897.
Two years after patenting the world’s first “successful” electric vehicle in 1894, engineers Henry Morris and Pedro Salom founded the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, which built the first fleet of electric taxis for New York City.
Electric taxis enjoyed early commercial success because of the many advantages over steam and gas-powered vehicles. Electric vehicles were quiet, clean, and easy to use. The future looked particularly auspicious for electric taxis after financier William Whitney bought the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company (renaming it the Electric Vehicle Company) and devised a solution to the limited range of battery-powered vehicles: Electric taxis were able to stay on the road all-day by swapping the batteries at the end of every shift instead of stopping to charge every couple of hours.
In 1899 the Electric Vehicle Company operated the largest electric vehicle assembly plant in the world. It operated an electric fleet of 2,000 taxis, trucks, and buses. However, the rapid expansion of electric cabs over a short period of time led to poor maintenance and an under stock of batteries, which in turn led to a decline in service and malfunctioning taxis.
By the mid-1900s the Electric Vehicle Company could no longer afford to improve upon the then outmoded electric vehicle model that had launched the company. The company had begun to focus on collecting patent royalties from other manufacturers for revenue, and soon its regional companies began to close. The entire company went out of business in 1907.
Over a century later, with evolved vehicle technology and a still-bustling taxi industry, the Electric Taxi Pilot aims to find out whether electric vehicles can once again become the clean, quiet, economical choice for the New York City taxi industry.
Electric vehicles run entirely on electricity. Electric vehicles rely on an internal battery pack that powers an electric motor, which creates the needed propulsion for the car. In most electric vehicles, the battery pack inside the vehicle is recharged by plugging it in to an electrical outlet or special electric vehicle charger.
Electric vehicles have existed since the turn of the 20th century and interest in them has waxed and waned over the years. In recent years interest in electric vehicles has resurged due to the negative environmental impacts associated with burning fossil fuels. Unlike hybrids and conventional gas vehicles, electric vehicles have the potential for zero-emissions, so long as the power source used to charge the batteries is renewable. In NYC 40% of electrical power comes from hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, and other renewable power source (2).
Electric vehicles are powered by batteries. The amount of energy the battery holds is measured in kilo watts (kW). An electric vehicle’s range (i.e., how far the can travel on a given amount of battery power) depends on the size of the battery, the driver’s behavior (e.g., use of heat or air conditioning), traffic patterns and speeds, and external factors (e.g., weather). Driving patterns, such as excessive braking and speed, can also effect the range of the vehicle. Therefore it is important to test electric vehicle range in real-world NYC driving conditions with real NYC taxi drivers.
Charging stations, or chargers, can be classified into three groups based on the rate at which they charge the vehicle. There are three different types of chargers: level I, level II, and level III.
Level I – A Level 1 charger uses a portable plug to connect a standard wall outlet directly to a battery charger that is built into the vehicle itself (an “on-board charger”). A full charge takes approximately 16 to 18 hours.
Level II – Sometimes referred to as overnight charger, a Level II charger is installed in a fixed location such as a garage (see photo). A Level II charger brings power from the garage to the electric vehicle’s on-board charger. A full charge takes approximately 7 hours.
Level II quick charger at Style Management NYC Taxi Garage.
Level III – Level III chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, are high-powered than Levels I and II and deliver energy directly to the battery rather than to an on-board charger. A full charge takes approximately 30 minutes.
For the TLC pilot we will use a combination of Level II chargers that will be installed at the home of each driver and each participating fleet garage, as well as Level III DC fast chargers that will be conveniently located in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
The electric taxi pilot is a cooperative effort between the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission and Nissan North America. The pilot is also supported by several other key partners.
Nissan North America – Nissan has worked closely with TLC throughout the pilot and is providing New York City taxi drivers with Nissan LEAFs to use for the course of the pilot. They are also supporting charging infrastructure for the pilot in the form on Level II chargers at the taxi fleets and home garages of each participant. Nissan has also supported the installation of the first quick chargers in NYC.
New York City Taxi Drivers and Owners– Two owner-drivers and two New York City taxi fleets volunteered to be "pioneers" in the Electric Taxi Pilot Program. They will be the most important players in this pilot, keeping the taxis on the road, using the charging infrastructure, and providing TLC and Nissan with feedback so we understand the benefits and challenges of operating electric vehicles as taxis. Their commitment to the pilot program is invaluable.
Related Managment – Related Management's midtown parking garage is host to one of the city's first electric vehicle quick-chargers. This innovative real estate company has provided an excellent midtown location for taxi drivers to charge mid-shift and is an essential partner in the Electric Taxi Pilot Program.
Seward Park Cooperative – The Seward Park Co-Op's parking lot is host to one of the city's first electric vehicle quick-chargers. This green-minded co-op has provided an excellent downtown location for taxi drivers to charge mid-shift. They are a valued partner in the Electric Taxi Pilot Program.
Con Edison – Con Edison has been working with the City throughout the pilot. They were essential to enabling Nissan and the TLC to find sites that have the right power usage profiles to host quick chargers.
New York Power Authority – The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has provided key funding to help cover energy costs for quick charging.
US Department of Energy – The United States Department of Energy's Idaho National Lab is assisting the TLC by analyzing data we obtain from the electric taxis. Their analysis will help us understand how electric vehicles perform as New York City taxis relative to other uses. They will help us understand more about battery range and what range would be necessary for various scenarios of a broader rollout of electric vehicles.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) – NYSERDA has provided vital funding to assist in the installation of quick chargers.
NYC Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability – The Mayor's Office of Long- Term Planning and Sustainability has been working with TLC and Nissan throughout the pilot. They have provided significant expertise that is helping make this a successful pilot program.
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) – DOT has assisted the TLC by providing technical advice and support in the installation of quick chargers.
In his January 2013 State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg called for a one-third electric taxi fleet by 2020. To see what it will take to meet this goal, he commissioned the Long-Term Electric Taxi Task Force. The task force is led by the Taxi and Limousine Commission and is a collaboration between City agencies, the taxi industry, the real estate industry, the Port Authority, and non-profit stakeholders. It is comprised of three committees—a Vehicle Committee, a Charging Infrastructure Committee, and a Taxi Industry Committee--that are researching different issues impacting the broader electrification of the taxi fleet. Task force participants include:
The Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability
Natural Resource Defense Council
NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission
NYC Department of Transportation
Real Estate Board of New York
Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade
New York Taxi Worker’s Alliance
NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
Natural Resource Defense Council
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
NYC Department of City Planning
The task force is also drawing upon the expertise of various other subject matter experts. The ultimate goal of the Long-Term Taxi Fleet Working Group is to create a report that clarifies the opportunities and challenges of using electric vehicles as taxis and policy recommendations to bring about greater adoption of electric vehicles as taxis.
Although the task force is not directly connected to the Electric Taxi Pilot, in combination the pilot and the task force will enable the City and the taxi industry to know what it would take to bring about broader adoption of electric vehicles as taxis.