Nissan Leaf Electric Taxis Take On NYC In Pilot Plug-In Plan

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Prototype of 2012 Nissan Leaf as New York City taxi cab

Prototype of 2012 Nissan Leaf as New York City taxi cab

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With good reason, it's often said that the toughest auto endurance testing in the world is in taxi duty on the streets of New York City (and Jakarta, and Beijing, and Rio).

While the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission has pushed aggressively for high-mileage hybrids--mostly Ford Escape crossovers--to replace the low-mileage Ford Crown Victoria full-size sedans, there have been no plug-in taxis in the city.

That's about to change.

The city is joining with Nissan to test six 2012 Nissan Leaf hatchbacks in taxi service, starting next spring, and recently issued the official notice of its Electric Taxi Pilot Program to anyone who's interested in taking part.

The partners are seeking owner-drivers and fleet operators who want to participate in the pilot program. Each one will get a leased Leaf, at no cost, for up to a year.

New York City taxi cab

New York City taxi cab

Enlarge Photo

The six Nissan Leaf compact five-door electric cars will go into normal service on the streets, using an existing medallion (to soothe taxi owners worried about additional competition, no doubt).

No word yet on whether the Leafs will have any restrictions on distance or duty, as Tokyo electric taxis sometimes do, or whether they'll operate on just a single shift a day or propose to use DC quick-charging to recharge their lithium-ion battery packs to 80 percent in an hour or less.

The TLC and Nissan will hold information sessions for interested medallion owners on November 9. Applications to be put into the "giant spinning basket" will be due November 30. More information is available on the TLC's website, as is the application

Next time, however, we suggest the TLC not describe the Leafs as provided "free of charge." That gives the wrong impression.


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Comments (5)
  1. This could provide a lot of great exposure for the Leaf. It's a little small to handle all callers, but the majority would be no problem. Imagine what a huge difference in operating costs would be seen when switching from a Crown Victoria gas hog - I've already saved over $1000 in gas in the last few months, plus no oil changes etc, and my commute is a short one.

  2. Sounds a great idea to me - and being a busy UK taxi driver, is one idea I have tried to propose to Nissan UK. Trouble is, a 30 min fast charger is absolutely necessary in taxi use and it will be used at least once, possibly twice a day in addition to the overnight slow charge. How that will affect the long term life of the battery is an unknown. There's no point saving thousands in fuel if you're going to be landed with a £8,000/$13,000 bill for new batteries at 60,000 miles - 18 to 24 months mileage for an owner driver.
    I'd really really like to have a Leaf on our fleet but so far the costs don't quite add up yet despite the fuel savings, and 24 hour fast charge infrastructure is almost non existant.

  3. James; to what do you base your concerns about quick charging? just curious since its not from personal experience since the only well known QC'r is a taxi driver in Japan who has used QC over 2,000 times and currently has seen no degradation in range. granted this is only over 100,000 miles and barely a year of driving so long term effects are not known yet. But Nissan has also stated that current Quick Charge solutions up to 60 amps are not really quick enough to damage the batteries assuming the proper precautions to avoid over charging is followed.

    personally i think this is a great chance to see exactly how tough these battery packs are

  4. The Nissan UK website doesn't recommend QC more than once a day. I'd hate to invalidate the warranty if it was discovered I'd QC'd more often than this. The 60k mile quoted for new batteries again refers to the wiki page where it says 80% capacity after 5 years of average driving. The UK warranty is only 60k miles which is another concern on such new tech in a harsh taxi environment. I have also been unable to secure a lease option with a 30k miles per year limit. I'd love to have a Leaf as a cab, but equally I don't want it to be a financial nightmare. If Nissan want to help out, then I'm listening :)

  5. I'd also like to see a large test of EV taxis with quickdrop batteries like the Better Place test in Tokyo. Imagine 100 - 200 EV taxis supported by 3 or 4 judiciously placed switch stations. Total cost incl 6 spare batteries per station would be only 10 megabucks.

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