The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) unanimously passed a resolution on May 4 to make way for more electric taxis, as some yellow cab companies are already opting to go green with Teslas. Some of the benefits: No gasoline, no engine check and no transmission problems.

The pilot program – pursuant to section 52-27(a) of the TLC’s rules – will test whether more battery electric vehicles (BEVs), “defined as vehicles that are fully-electric, use rechargeable batteries, and do not use gasoline, can be used safely and efficiently for taxi use.”

Until now, the TLC permitted the use of only one BEV model: the Tesla Model 3. Medallion Owners and Agents have shown a desire to add more variety, but there have been issues related to the technology, according to the TLC: “All vehicles approved for use as taxis cannot have a horsepower that exceeds 295. This prohibits most BEVs from being approved… both a conceptual and practical level. On a conceptual level, BEVs’ motor outputs are measured in kilowatts, not horsepower, so the concept of horsepower does not apply to BEVs. On a practical level, many BEVs, if their kilowatt output is converted to horsepower, would exceed the 295-horsepower limit in TLC’s rules.”

The TLC’s reasoning: “BEVs instantly achieve power while gas combustible engines must build revolutions per minute (RPMs) through acceleration until the vehicle reaches its maximum power.” This means many recent BEVs have acceleration rates that may be dangerous for drivers unfamiliar with driving them.

Horsepower is not the only obstacle to widespread adoption of BEVs in the taxi fleet. There is currently a lack of readily available charging infrastructure, giving some drivers “range anxiety” – the concern that their vehicles will not have enough charge to make it to the closest charging station. This anxiety may be compounded when driving a taxi, where a driver does not know if a passenger’s destination will put the vehicle beyond its battery range or anywhere near a charging station.

Despite obstacles, BEV designs, battery technology and charging infrastructure have improved enough to warrant piloting more BEVs for taxi use, the TLC says. To address potential safety concerns about acceleration, particularly surrounding drivers who lease BEVs for short periods and do not regularly drive BEVs, the TLC will permit medallion owners who wish to put their medallions on BEVs to apply under the following conditions:

  • The BEV the Medallion Owner puts forward for certification meets all the requirements for hacking up a vehicle as a taxi contained in 67-05.1 of TLC’s Rules, with the exception of the requirements contained in 67-05.1(f)
  • The BEV does not have a 0-60 mph acceleration rate faster than 4.4 seconds
  • The Participant certifies that all TLC Licensed Drivers that operate a BEV as a taxicab will be trained, and can demonstrate their ability to safely operate the BEV to the Participant prior to operating the BEV as a taxicab

Pursuant to Chapter 52, Subchapter C of the Commission’s Rules, participation in the TLC Pilot Program is subject to the following terms:

  • The TLC Pilot Program will commence when the first BEV is certified for use as a taxi and will continue for a maximum of 12 consecutive months. The Chairperson can terminate the TLC Pilot Program at any time.
  • Pre-Qualification Conditions. Each Participant in the TLC Pilot Program must enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chairperson, to be approved by the New York City Law Department, obligating the participant to adhere to all requirements of this Resolution.

MOUs will be accepted only from Medallion Owners or Agents. It should be noted that participating in the Pilot does not remove a Medallion Owner’s obligation to place a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle into service.

During the Pilot Program, Chairwoman, Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk will review data, including but not limited to:

  • Trip records and crash data, to evaluate the range (both distance and time) of BEV taxis
  • The impact of a BEV’s range on the length of driver shifts
  • The rate of crashes involving BEVs, as compared to non-BEVs

A final report, including a recommendation on whether to commence rulemaking, will be issued to the TLC within six months of the conclusion of the Pilot. Ms. Heredia Jarmoszuk will commence rulemaking, if warranted, within six months of the issuance of the final report.

United Taxi Management already has four Tesla taxis, and the company’s president, Savis Tsitiridis, is planning to add more electric cars.

“It’s definitely the way of the future,” said Tsitiridis, who installed charging stations at a nearby car wash, but acknowledges that a lot more chargers need to be strategically placed around the city. “There’s a cost savings, charging the vehicle versus spending 25 to 30 dollars per shift.”

An additional $30 million is now available through New York State’s Drive Clean Rebate program to encourage the lease or purchase of all-electric cars (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The program is aimed at increasing vehicle affordability and helping more New Yorkers lower their carbon footprint. The program incentive levels for drivers changed on June 30. They include updated rebate levels to incentivize EVs with longer all-electric ranges and EVs with a base MSRP of less than $42,000. There are an increasing number and variety of EV models available, with more than 50 models currently available in New York. Of those models, 15 have a range of more than 200 miles and are eligible for the rebate. Eligible vehicles under the Drive Clean Rebate include EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric cars. New rebate levels as of June 30, 2021 are:

  • Cars with a range of 200 miles or more: $2,000
  • Cars with a range of 40-199 miles: $1,000
  • Cars with a range of less than 40 miles: $500

New York State is also investing in the rapid build-out of its charging infrastructure with more than 7,000 charging stations currently installed statewide. The Charge Ready NY program provides $4,000 per charging port with an additional $500 per port for stations installed in disadvantaged communities and can be combined with New York State’s 50% tax credit for charging station installation to boost savings.

For more information about the TLC’s pilot, visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/tlc/downloads/pdf/bev-pilot-resoluton.pdf. You can also watch the TLC meeting at: https://livestream.com/nyctaxi/050421commmeeting.

Sources: CBS New York, My Twin Tiers, NYC TLC