Taxis are an excellent proving ground for electric vehicle technologies because they are professionally managed, intensively used, standardised in fleets and can have depots dedicated to their needs. That is why they are being used to trial fuel cells and/or lithium ion batteries in, China, Japan, the USA, the UK and elsewhere. Battery swapping is more feasible with standardised, centrally managed taxis than with the confusion of design and management of electric cars.
South Korea and the Philippines
For instance, we have previously reported on how, in October 2009, Leo Motors of South Korea announced an agreement with the Philippines government to supply $15 million in EVs and components. As part of the deal, the Korean startup will supply more than 2,500 electric taxis and build an assembly plant in the Philippines. The electric taxis, called E-Princesa, named after the Philippine city that will host the plant, will use lithium polymer battery packs, drive about 50 miles per charge, and have a top speed of 30 mph. in Europe, car companies such as Fiat are taking an interest because their cars are used as taxis and they have a major electrification program.
This year, we also reported that, in China, there are more than a million taxis on the streets and they are all owned or controlled by some level of government, so this is a good launch pad for e-car sales. BYD has recently invested in Pengcheng Electric Taxi Company with Shenzhen Bus Group, which is controlled by the city government. BYD pure electric cars using lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries are now being used in a taxi rollout by Pengcheng Electric Taxi Company.
This year, the US company ZAP, which is partly Chinese owned, introduced an electric taxi. Like previous Zap products, the taxi is to be produced in China. This one, copying a Toyota RAV4, will be built by a joint venture between Zap and electric meter manufacturer Holley Group. In electric form, this taxi is has a top speed of 70 miles per hour and Zap claims a range of up to 186 miles.
Here is an update to our report of May 5 concerning battery swapping in Tokyo taxis. Better Place launched this pilot program operating three switchable-battery electric taxis in Tokyo, in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Nihon Kotsy, Tokyo's largest taxi operator. The batteries are lithium-ion iron phosphate.
Better Place converted gas-powered Nissan crossover utility vehicles into electric taxis with switchable batteries. When a battery runs low, the taxi need only pull into a battery switch station, where their power source is replaced with a fully charged battery in a few minutes.
A team of Empa scientists have assessed the life cycle of lithium-ion batteries. The investigation shows that, if the power used to charge the battery is not derived from purely hydroelectric sources, then it is primarily the operation of the electric car, which has an environmental impact, exactly as is the case with conventionally fuelled automobiles.
The trial, originally only 90 days, is now being extended until the end of 2010. According to Better Place, by extending the trial they will be able to further evaluate and optimize the design and integration of the components of the system including the battery switch station (BSS), the EV taxis, battery performance and charging and driver behaviour and consumer acceptance.
On the other hand, Dagfinn Sivertsen, of fast charging company Aker Wade Power Technologies, reports that his taxi chargers in Tokyo are achieving a 30 minute charge. There are many options here. Indeed, Lotus, famous for its sports cars and its design and sourcing for the successful Tesla, is building a fuel cell powered taxi for the London Olympics in 2010 with exceptional performance. More of that later.
Third generation batteries from PolyPlus Battery Company and Oxis Energy, such as lithium sulphur, are likely to appear in taxis in due course. The use of ultracapacitors and no batteries, with charging from coils in the road is being trialled with buses on fixed routes and it may develop into a possibility for urban taxis but not yet awhile.
Main Image source: ZAP
For more read: Electric Vehicles in East Asia 2011-2021
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