Slowly but surely, our country’s taxicab fleets are shifting to cleaner, greener vehicles. This is great news, especially given that cars are the main source of air pollution in most American cities, as well as a big chunk of our greenhouse gas emissions. While cars have gradually been getting cleaner and more fuel-efficient over the years, it hasn’t been fast enough to move many cities into compliance with health-based clear air standards.
In addition, look for taxis – like car-sharing systems – to play an increasingly important role in our transportation mix as more and more Americans forego car ownership in favor of more walkable lifestyles. Most everyone still needs a ride on occasion, especially given the limitations of public transit availability in US cities.
Arlington, Virginia, for example, is about to get a fleet of all-electric taxis. Although the county government has not approved the proposal yet as of this writing, the local government’s consent is likely to come in at least one form or another. Patricia Sullivanwrites in The Washington Post that EV Taxicab, a local company, plans to launch a fleet of 40 Nissan Leaf sedans; these are electric vehicles that would be recharged at drivers’ homes and at “at least a half-dozen additional charging stations [that] would be made available for public use near the county’s busy Metrorail stations.” Each vehicle has a range of about 100 miles between charges, according to sources quoted in Sullivan’s article.
While there are questions about the effect of adding new taxi licenses on existing companies and drivers, and how the vehicles will be financed, most everyone agrees that electric and hybrid vehicles are the future of the industry. Arlington’s progressive planning and transit-oriented development has been highly successful in reducing driving rates, making the availability of taxis for spot duty especially important to county residents, an increasing number of whom do not own cars. I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t happen soon.
Chicago launched its green taxi program in 2011, in pursuit of the goals in the city’s Climate Action Plan. The program used federal stimulus funding to reimburse part of the cost of qualifying vehicles, including hybrids and those powered with compressed natural gas. 120 new taxis were put on the road as a result of the program.