Fuggedabout about the “Taxi of Tomorrow.” New Yawkers want to know what they’ll be hailing when they get off work today. And, it seems, the list of vehicles going into the Big Apple’s taxi fleet is about to grow a bit larger.
Authorities at the New York Taxis and Limousine Commission, or TLC, have given their approval to Nissan to start striping yellow paint on its Altima sedan, while Ford has gotten the go-ahead for converting the Transit Connect van – which is already proving popular with taxi fleets in other parts of the country.
The new offerings will fill the void that’s opening up now that Ford has ended production of the long-running taxi-of-choice, the Crown Victoria.
“For decades, Ford has been synonymous with New York City taxis, and we are pleased residents and tourists now will benefit from our next-generation vehicle,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “We have Transit Connect Taxis in service across the country, and people tell us they love its spaciousness and its fuel efficiency.”
The Transit Connect, a Turkish-made van, is already in use in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, among other cities. The Altima, meanwhile, has already been given a potholed welcome in New York, where 306 hybrid-electric versions of the sedan have been undergoing a test program.
Ford and Nissan – as well as a small Turkish start-up – recently competed for the coveted title of Taxi of the Future, a project announced by the TLC to eventually replace the entire NY fleet. Nissan won with a modified version of its new NV200 commercial van. (Click Herefor the full story.) A purpose-built variant is expected to begin going out on the city’s mean streets in 2013.
“We’re proud that Nissan was selected to provide New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow,” said Joe Castelli, Nissan’s vice president, Fleet & Commercial Vehicles, “and we’re focused now on delivering the safest, most comfortable and most convenient taxi ever to travel the City’s streets. While our work on that program is underway, we’re pleased that Nissan can increase its presence in today’s New York taxi fleet.”
Nissan, meanwhile, plans to test the viability of running pure electric vehicles in the NY cab fleet, and will launch a pilot fleet of six Leaf battery cars in 2012.
A Ford official hinted that the maker will also be testing the potential of the Transit Connection Electric, the battery van it launched late last year.
Observers question how effective such vehicles would be considering their limited range, but if they weren’t used for longer runs, such as trips to one of the New York-area airports, they could prove viable considering the short distances in Manhattan. To overcome the long charging times, Nissan and Ford are expected to install 440-volt Level III chargers that could bring batteries back up to 80% or more of capacity within 30 minutes.