Better Place Brings a New Era of Taxis to San Francisco

For those familiar with big cities, they are well aware of the ever present taxi sluggishly moving through the streets and making frequent stops. Obviously they generate plenty of gas emissions. Better Place, a leading electric vehicles service provider with the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is planning on bringing a switchable battery, electric taxi program to the San Francisco Bay Area.

San Francisco became in 2005 one of the first cities to introduce hybrid vehicles for taxi service, with a fleet of 15 Ford Escape Hybrids. The original Escape Hybrids were retired after 300,000 miles per vehicle.

Meanwhile, two electric taxi prototypes have recently debuted in London. They are vehicles from Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, two of Europe’s largest producers of taxi cabs. There is a third demonstration project in Tokyo, a city that has some 60,000 taxis — more than London, Paris, and New York combined.

In 2000 North America’s first hybrid taxi was put into service in Vancouver, British Columbia, operating a 2001 Toyota Prius, which traveled over 206,000 miles before being retired.

Several major cities in the world are adding hybrid taxis to their taxicab fleets, led by San Francisco where hybrid represent almost 50% of its taxicab fleet as of March 2010, and New York City where hybrids taxis represent around 28% of the total fleet by mid 2010. Unlike conventional gasoline cars, hybrids get better fuel economy, do well at slow speeds or idling, and have cleaner emissions.

In August 2008 Boston mandated that all its 1,825 taxi fleet must be converted to hybrids by 2015. As of March 2009 about 10% of the taxicab fleet were already hybrids as owner voluntarily began using hybrids.

Denver and Seattle introduced their first hybrid taxis in 2007, as did Arlington; Virginia now has a fleet of 85 environmentally friendly hybrid cabs. Chicago is following New York City’s lead by proposing a mandate for Chicago’s entire fleet of 6,700 taxicabs to become hybrid by January 2014.

In October 2009, a fleet of 26 Toyota Prius began operating in Phoenix, Arizona, becoming the country’s second all-hybrid taxicab fleet after Arlington, Virginia.

Better Place, which plans to introduce its battery switching technology in Israel and Denmark in late 2011, is demonstrating the world’s first switchable battery electric taxi in Tokyo as well as its plans for San Francisco. For the Tokyo electric taxi project, Better Place and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, are operating three switchable battery electric taxis.

These major cities are leading the trend towards low or no emission taxis by using environmental policies as its goal.

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Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy ENN.

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