From the iconic Ford Crown Victoria through to the Ford Escape Hybrids replacing many of them as part of air quality legislature coming into force in 2012, Ford’s relationship with the New York taxi is a long one. 

But Ford’s chance to electrify the humble New York City taxi with its 2011Transit EV  minivan has been snatched away by a Japanese rival keen to prove that it has what it takes to pave the way to an electrified future taxi fleet in The Big Apple.

Winning a $1 billion exclusive contract from 2013 to supply NYC with its taxis for ten years, Nissan’s new take on the NYC taxi is based upon a modified passenger version of its NV200 compact commercial vehicle already common on the roads of Japan, Europe and China. 

But while the boxy internal-combustion engined taxi, complete with power docks to recharge passenger’s electronic gadgets en-route will form the basis of the 13,200 vehicle fleet which transports an estimated 600,000 passengers a day, Nissan has hinted that it could be producing an all-electric version of the taxi for use in NYC as early as 2017.

2011 Ford Transit Connect Taxi, introduced at 2010 Chicago Auto Show

2011 Ford Transit Connect Taxi, introduced at 2010 Chicago Auto Show

First however, Nissan has to prove the suitability of electric vehicles in the role of taxi cab, where cars can cover between 70,000 and 100,000 miles in a single year. 

As part of the process, Nissan will subject its all-electric Leaf to life as a taxi in a six car pilot project ran in collaboration with NYC.

Installing appropriate charging stations for the all-electric taxis at strategic places throughout NYC should help ensure the zero tailpipe emissions Leafs will be a hit with both customers and drivers, although a lack of battery heating could mean less range in harsh NY winters could cuase some significant drop in range. 

There are no details yet on Nissan’s potential all-electric NV200 Taxi, which depends entirely on the success of the Leaf trial. 

Will we see an all-electric NYC taxi fleet within 10 years? Probably not, but we are likely to see a significant number of all-electric taxis in the coming years. 

[Detroit News (Subscription Required), GreencarCongress]