Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Right now, hybrid Taxis are do-able; 100 per cent electric impossible

By Marc Andre Way

CTA president Marc Andre Way Photo: CTA

At its October 11 Council meeting, the City of Toronto will vote on whether to require 100 per cent of Taxis and ridesharing vehicles to be all-electric by 2030. Other municipalities will certainly follow Toronto’s lead; Canada’s federal government plans to require 100 per cent of passenger vehicles sold to be electric by 2040.

As the industry that has evolved from the horse and carriage to the hybrid Camry, from street hails to push radios to cell phones and apps, we expect the Taxi industry to take the next innovations in stride.

However, the current ideological rush to “100 per cent electric” is misguided. This migration to electric needs a plan, and so far, no government has offered anything even resembling a feasible plan.

Here are some of the unresolved issues Taxi professionals see in the disorganized rush to all-electric:

Range: existing electric vehicles still do not have the range required by ground transportation providers. For example, a car picking up a fare at the airport has to be ready to drive 20 kilometers or 200. The concern that the vehicle might die before destination or charging station is reached is real, and untenable.

Charging Stations: there are not enough of them, there are not enough of them in crucially important locations. Wedging them in to already-crowded downtown areas is going to be difficult, if it is possible at all. We all hope enthusiastic governments will get this done; none of us want to bet a disappointed customer that they will.

Further, recommendations made to maximize the benefits of all-electric Taxis suggest that the best option is to have drivers living in single-family homes install their own chargers. Unfortunately, many if not most Taxi drivers do not live in single-family homes; they live in apartment buildings or otherwise shared accommodation where installing their own charger is not an option.

Difficult to repair: it is challenging enough to hire mechanics and technicians to work on internal combustion engines in 2023. We don’t have a fraction of the techs qualified to work on all-electric vehicles. This can mean that a car sent out for repair can be gone for months.

Collision repair: as challenging as mechanical repair but even more so. In fact, some relatively minor collisions that damage the battery area may make the entire car a write off, which is one of the reasons insurance companies do not want to insure all-electric Taxis.

Replacement cost: an all-electric vehicle which needs replacement is a horrendously expensive proposition. We need to plan for a useful vehicle life of five years; a car that only makes it a year or two is not a viable proposition.

Insurance: Canada’s Taxi industry already faces a serious challenge procuring insurance coverage; all the above points about electric vehicles exacerbates the existing problems. Insurers have been very clear with us: they have no appetite for insuring all-electric Taxis.

The solution to the all-electric problem is simple, and it’s already here: hybrid vehicles. The Taxi industry led the way in adopting hybrid vehicles and can continue doing so.

Hybrid vehicles offer all the best of all the worlds: drivers who are able to charge their Taxi at home, off-shift, will do so. If they need a charge on the road and a public charging station is available, they will use that. If line-ups at charging stations are too long or there are none available, they can switch to gas.

The hybrid option means never having to say, “A Taxi that ran out of juice stalled at an intersection and caused gridlock for blocks around.”

Repairs are manageable, and insurers are willing to write coverage.

Later, when technology improves and becomes more reliable, Taxi will invest in all-electric as it has always invested in change (remember the propane craze in the 1980s?)

100 per cent electric for its own sake makes no sense, offers no security for drivers or passengers, and frankly is impossible to implement without plans for grids, chargers, and insurance.

 Hybrid is a safe, sure step in the right direction.

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Marc Andre Way is the president of the Canadian Taxi Association.