Tesla Taxis Are Hitting The Streets

by Gill D on November 11, 2020

It’s been almost a year to the date since the New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved the introduction of the Tesla Model 3 into the city’s fleet. And now the vehicle has finally made an appearance on the Big Apple’s streets as the first yellow all-electric taxicab.

The Tesla Taxi has just completed the first full weekend of service with over a 100 trips. Drive Sally is a New York-based taxi operator with over 1,000 cars leased out for taxi services and the first in the area to introduce an electric vehicle. When New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved the Model 3 for the city’s fleet, it also included the approval of 40 other vehicles made up of hybrids, but Tesla is the first all-electric car allowed to operate as a city taxi. While the Tesla Model 3 taxi started its run on 30 October, Drive Sally took the car off the roads for a couple of days to make a few tweaks.

The EV has had two drivers and after each shift, Drive Sally spends time getting feedback from the cabbies as part of their trial phase. Some of this feedback included passengers having trouble using the unconventional door handles to enter and exit the car. To resolve this, the taxi operator is applying “push here” stickers on the door handles to make it easier get in and out. Feedback from the drivers started off with a bit of anxiety as they weren’t familiar with the electric car’s range. One driver was so stressed about running out of power that he brought it back to the Drive Sally offices after only doing 50 miles out the 220 mile range. While the other driver was so confident that he drove the Tesla Taxi till it had 5 miles left.

The electric charging infrastructure isn’t well-established on the New York City streets yet, so the electric taxi now does one shift daily so the vehicle can stay overnight in their garage to charge for the next day’s shift. But this will change over time as the drivers gain more trust in their transition from the gas powered cars to the all-electric mode of transport.

Adriel Gonzalez, founder of Drive Sally feels that in the long-term, taxi drivers will pay extra to lease an electric car because there is no cost for gas, which is the primary expense. Gonzalez is also confident that this is going to be a breakthrough for the taxicab players in the big city, which over recent years took a hit from driving services such as Uber and Lyft. And it’s not just the cab industry that will benefit but also the city could start mandating electric cabs for sustainability reasons, similar to the recent law passed by the state of California that is phasing out sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

As the adoption of all-electric cabs increase in these big cities, so too will the charging facilities. However, New York City isn’t the first to introduce electric vehicles for taxi services.  the first city where passengers can hail a battery-powered taxi. The Madison Green Cab company in Wisconsin converted its entire fleet to the Tesla Model 3 during 2020 and the Columbus Yellow Cab company in Ohio purchased 10 of the Model 3 vehicles last year.

Once Drive Sally has finished their trial phase and worked out all the adjustments, they plan to add more Tesla EVs to their fleet. Gonzalez reckons the Model Y would probably be better suited as a cab because it’s so much more spacious. But for now, Drive Sally will stick to the Model 3 as it’s the less expensive Tesla option.

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