A Brief Conversation with a Taxi Driver in a Leaf

  • Tue 18 April 2017
  • misc

As I've previously written about extensively, my daily driver is a 2015 Nissan Leaf. The lease (leafse?) runs out at the end of July and I'm looking to finagle the timeframe on handing it in so I can get a spiffy new 2018 Leaf with whatever Chevy-Bolt-and-Tesla-3-prompted range extensions it may have over the 2017.

The Leaf works out great for me. For starters, I have access to Mrs. RS' Forester and a couple of pickup trucks if I need to make a trip that is longer than the range of the Leaf, and I've taken the time to find charging facilities in places that I frequent (such as Crystal City and Bethesda) which stretch the Leaf's range.

Back in February I first actually saw a Leaf DC taxi in the flesh. They've been rumored for years but apparently not existent until last summer.

Fast forward to last Sunday. I went downtown to have breakfast with a friend. We settled on Ari's Diner in Ivy City. It's new to the area, built into the first floor of what used the be the Hecht's Warehouse.

Two thumbs up for the food, would go again. Unfortunately a trip down there from Leesburg is one-way if one doesn't find a place to charge the Leaf. I didn't realize until after I was inside that there's a Mom's Organic Market on the same block (hurray for redevelopment and gentrification - that area has historically been a bit of a food desert) with chargers. Could have charged while we ate, but oh well, opportunity missed.

There's a pair of DC fast chargers on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, in a location that used to be a Walgreen's. The PlugShare app showed them as being online and available so I went there to take on some megajoules so I could make it home.

While I was charging, another car pulled up to take on some quick energy from the other DC fast charger... and it was one of the aforementioned DC taxicabs!

I waited for the driver to hook up and start charging before I bugged him, but I was keen to hear what he thought of it as a taxi. His response was succinct: "For you, very good. For me, not good at all. I lose business."

At first I thought that he was referring to the downtime spent charging which could be substantial depending on the amount of time that he spends charging, but it turns out that this is not the problem he's facing. It turns out that when engaged in the taxi trade in DC people often want to go to the airport. If that's DCA, no problem. If it's BWI or IAD, big problem - especially if they want to go to the airport and then come back again, which is apparently a thing. Who knew? He has to turn down that (profitable by comparison to his shorter rides) business because he can not accommodate without stopping for a charge for the return trip... and that's if he's completely charged up when he started.

My new acquaintance continued, "For a gasoline car, I can fill up at the beginning of the day, and it covers all my driving for the day, even trips to the airport". I asked him if a 200 mile Bolt or Leaf would work for him. He said "Maybe". 200 miles might or might not be enough.

I thanked him for the information and for teaching me something I didn't know about how things work when driving taxi.

I have long thought that the ability to give up some cargo space in exchange for an extended range battery pack would be a really nice thing. I'm not sure that this would help our friend the taxi driver - people who want to go to the airport have suitcases with them.

Sometimes range anxiety isn't just anxiety - it's a matter of being able to pay the bills and eat. Maybe the sweet spot is still hybrids for taxis. I sure see a lot of Priuses plying the taxi trade.