NYC Officially Launches Nissan Leaf Electric Taxi Program

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Within a few weeks, a handful of New Yorkers each day will ride in a new kind of taxi: an all-electric Nissan Leaf.

On Monday, to celebrate Earth Day, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg joined with Nissan officials to announce that six Nissan Leaf taxis would go into service this spring.

The plan, Bloomberg said, will help the city "answer important questions about incorporating electric taxis into the fleet, so that we can achieve the goal of a one-third electric taxi fleet by 2020."

Included in the test will be the installation of several DC fast-charging stations in New York City, which will enable Leaf taxi drivers to recharge their cars to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes or less.

Those stations are now going into the ground, although Nissan officials privately concede that the planning, permitting, permissions, and paperwork involved in adding such infrastructure have been more onerous than expected.

Whether taxi drivers will resist the need to stop and recharge during their shifts remains an open question.

The test plan was originally scheduled to start a year ago, but Nissan officials held off until the company could provide updated 2013 Nissan Leafs from its Tennessee assembly plant.

At least some New York City Council members advocate for electric taxis, to reduce emissions.

2013 Nissan Leaf electric car tested as taxi in New York City, April 2013

2013 Nissan Leaf electric car tested as taxi in New York City, April 2013

Enlarge Photo

They have criticized the city's "Taxi of Tomorrow" program, which uses a lengthened and adapted Nissan NV200 minivan as the sole vehicle for taxis starting at the end of this year, because that vehicle is currently offered only with a gasoline engine.

Nissan is testing an all-electric version of the NV200 in a variety of locations; it uses Leaf underpinnings.

We drove the Nissan e-NV200 electric minivan in Japan last fall; thus far, according to the company, tests are progressing well.

Leaf taxis already operate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Osaka, Japan, though some Osaka drivers are not happy with the degradation in battery range they have experienced after racking up tens of thousands of miles in a short period.

New York City's taxi fleet now is more diverse than it has been in decades, as hybrids and smaller sedans and minivans from a variety of makers replace the formerly ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria full-size sedans, which are no longer made.


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Comments (20)
  1. I wonder how many miles a day a typical taxi goes in NYC.

  2. According to ABG "Taxis average 70-100 miles a day in NYC". If that's true only one fast charge per day (and plug-in at night, assuming not round the clock duty))should suffice, especially in urban traffic.

  3. "According to the PBS program "Taxi Dreams," the average number of miles driven by a taxi driver in New York City in a 12-hour shift is 180. If you do the simple math, a cab running five days a week would rack up 46,800 miles in 52 weeks.

    "Because some cabs are used for double shifts, meaning that two drivers share the same vehicle in two 12-hour shifts, an average cab being used to pull double shifts could rack up 93,600 miles in a year or more."

    From ... How Many Miles Does an Average Taxi Cab Driver Drive Yearly?

  4. I also wonder how much the battery will degrade with multiple daily L3 charges after 1 year. It'd be very interesting to see beyond that too but it's not going to happen.

  5. If you make sure that temperature doesn't build up in the battery, then I wouldn't expect any quicker degradation than normal (for those number of miles). However if the vehicles are quick charged and then driven, quick charged, driven, etc... on hot summers days then they won't last long at all. Arizona should have taught Nissan that!

    The trick is to make sure that the battery never gets to hot, this prematurely ages lithium batteries quicker than anything.

  6. Just for example, I drove 310 miles in a single day in my LEAF, but the battery temp gauge never got above 6 bars, despite quick charging 4 times in succession and I've not noticed any drop in range since. Actually I've not noticed any drop in range over the last 20,000 miles either!

    I suppose there has to be some advantage to living in a relatively cold climate! :)

  7. I would suspect they may have to do battery replacements every 18 months.

  8. Sounds like a terrible idea, there's no way that the range of a leaf is appropriate for a Taxi. A Model S perhaps?

  9. I would wager that the typical distance driven by a NYC taxi isn't that far at all, and at relatively low speeds. Longer distance fares could be routed to other vehicles.

  10. This was tried and failed in Osaka. Why would NYC be different?

    "When the cars were new, you could drive about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) on a full charge; but after two years of use, their maximum range is down to about one half of that."

    "Some drivers even shun the heater and offer passengers chemical pocket warmers and blankets."

  11. Leaf, an unattractive looking compact hatchback, NV 200 a third world style minivan...hmm, neither vehicle really feels like a step up from the legendary Crown Vic do they?

    How about Model X for New York Cab? Lots of charisma, lots of interior space, easy access through the falcon doors. The sort of cab people actually like to get into I imagine powered by large batteries that could keep it going all day, every day for many many years.

    Downside: the aluminum body is expensive to fix, so it would require cabbies that can actually drive.

  12. @Chris: I kinda love the idea of a Tesla taxi, but that ain't gonna happen any time soon. :)

    And, frankly, as a NYC resident, I've sat in both a Leaf and the "Taxi of Tomorrow"--and either of them is VASTLY preferable to the low seating position and horrendous ride of a Crown Vic (especially once the shocks go on the live axle).

    Some people may differ, but the Crown Vic (in addition to being a terrible fuel hog) was not that comfortable a cab.

    Finally, the Taxis of Tomorrow will, at last, have sliding doors--meaning fewer cyclists get "doored" by careless cab riders. Can you tell I'm a fan?

  13. "have sliding doors--meaning fewer cyclists get "doored" by careless cab riders"

    seriously? hahah. So, the careless passenger will get "run over" by the careless cyclists instead... j/k.

  14. @Xialong: Yes, seriously. Talk to any NYC cyclists and they'll you getting "doored" is an everpresent hazard.

    As for the passengers, they have to look for oncoming traffic before they climb out, so that should eliminate cyclist risk--in Crown Vics, they would throw open the door BEFORE looking.

  15. you hope the passengers look for oncoming traffic.

  16. Crown Victoria certainly was gas hog and some back of a napkin math indicates that Model X could easily compete in cost with it despite its triple price tag.

    Falcon doors should be cyclist friendly.

    The number you provided about mileage of a New York cab is an indication that Model X could have lower long time running cost as the Leaf because with high daily mileage the Leaf will show the same failure in New York as it did in Japan: the small battery can't cope with endless recharging.

    ..and I'm not a fan of the idea of a third world style minicab being the taxi of tomorrow. This cluttering the streets of New York doesn't really help spreading the "our best days are still in front of us" feeling.

  17. City driving is perfect for a car like the Leaf. It should be easily getting 80-100 miles range in slow speed NYC traffic.

    However, I wonder how the winter affects the car and its climate control. I would assume that Taxi drivers would use the Heat all the time during the winter month. That amount of usage would significantly reduce the range...

  18. Did you know New York city has a target of one-third electric taxi fleet by 2020? And Tesla, in addition to making the best American car in generations, will make money in the first quarter. I am feeling optimistic this morning about electric cars, which I consider to be an imporant part of our sustainable future.

  19. it would probably be better to start with Chevy Volts or Cmax-ENERGI or
    a plug in Camry.

    People want a lot of room in the back seat of a taxi, the cabbies don't want to spend more then half an hour charging and the car should be economical to operate.

    The Prius has worked well as a cab, so perhaps plug ins can do well.

  20. Wireless charging at the taxi waiting areas would help charge while the Leaf stands...


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