Should taxi fleets be converted to electric vehicles?

It was late last year when a NYC taxi fleet operator bought their first Tesla Model 3 yellow cab. The EV experiment was well-received by both the taxi drivers and their passengers. Since then, the taxi company, Drive Sally, has added four more Model 3s to the fleet. Is this a glimpse into the future of taxis? 

Above: Four more Tesla Model 3 electric cars added to the NYC taxi fleet by Drive Sally (Source: @bamtheteslaman1 / Twitter)

According to the New York City government website, there are currently 13,587 taxicabs on the streets of the city. The vast majority of these are internal combustion engine (ICE) cars that emit a significant amount of CO2 per mile.

For example, the Chevy Impala, a popular taxi in the fleet, emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile (396 grams on E85 fuel). On the lower end, the CO2 emissions from a Chevy Malibu are rated at 181 grams per mile.

Just for a rough estimate: let's take the average CO2 emission from both of these vehicles which is 296 grams per mile. Now multiplying it by 13,000 taxis gives us 3,848,000 grams per mile of carbon dioxide. In short, this translates to a staggering 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Twitter: K10

However, there have been a few alterations made to the Teslas during the initial test in NYC. Some passengers taking a ride in the Model 3 taxi are new to Tesla cars. In turn, they might face a bit of confusion opening the Model 3 doors because of the unique door handle design and function.

To solve this, the taxicab company Drive Sally included stickers beside the Model 3 door handles to help passengers more easily get into the car (see image below). To open the Tesla Model 3 or Model Y door handles, the user needs to push the wider side of the handle and grab/pull the popped-out thinner part of the handle.

Above: Tesla Model 3 NYC taxicab door handle sticker tells passengers how to open the door (Source: Drive Sally / Twitter)

Also, in accordance with COVID-19 protocol, the Tesla Model 3 NYC yellow cabs front and rear compartments are completely separated. The passenger can pay for his ride by using tablet-sized display screens and a credit card payment terminal (see photo below).

Above: Rear LED display screens and payment terminal for the Tesla Model 3 NYC yellow cab (Source: Sam Sheffer / YouTube)

Regardless of these minor vehicle modifications, it's clear EV taxis could prove beneficial on city streets. If taxi fleets are converted to Teslas and/or other electric vehicles, the health of city residents could rapidly improve. In the end, the transition to EV taxi fleets should prove beneficial — improving the air residents breathe in cities all around the globe. 


Written by: Iqtidar Ali. An earlier version of this article was originally published on Tesla Oracle. Source: NYC yellow cab website, NHTSA.