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L.A. Auto Show: Call a cab, get an electric vehicle

November 18, 2010 | 11:00 am

Call a cab in the next few years and there’s a good chance the ride that pulls up will be powered by a battery, as electric vehicle proponents increasingly turn to taxis to make their point.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised this month to promote electric taxis. On Monday he helped unveil three finalists in the Taxi of Tomorrow competition. The winner will be the exclusive cab of New York City for at least a decade.

The Karsan V1, from a Turkish manufacturer, and the Ford Transit Connect both could potentially use electric powertrains.

An pilot project involving electric cabs launched in April in Tokyo, where taxis make up 2% of the cars in the city but churn out 20% of the emissions. The trial involves three converted Nissan vehicles with batteries from A123 Systems, which will also supply the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

Palo Alto-based electric vehicle network provider Better Place, along with taxi operator Nihon Kotsu Co., opened a station that runs 18 hours a day to replace low batteries with fresh ones. The process sometimes takes less than a minute –- less time than a conventional taxi takes to refuel.

Here's a video of the battery-switch system in action:  

E1-002The battery-switching model is moving to the Bay Area. A partnership including Better Place and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will set up four stations over the next three years for electric taxi drivers to access.  

ElectriCab Technologies of Sacramento has been developing an electric minivan taxi since 2002 that it hopes will eventually be able to drive 700 miles a day.

Volkswagen-Milano-Taxi-7With the 2012 Olympics coming up, London earlier this year revealed the Mercedes eVito taxi as an alternative to its famous black cabs. The vehicle, with its 75 mph maximum, emerged from a partnership among Eco City Vehicles, Mercedes-Benz and Zytek Automotive.

This spring Volkswagen showed off its new electric Milano taxi concept, with extra luggage space in place of a front passenger seat and no rear driver’s side door to prevent passengers from exiting into the street.


L.A. Auto Show comes roaring back

Electric cars are charging into the marketplace

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo (top): ElectriCab

Photo (bottom): Volkswagen Milano. Credit: ZerCustoms