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New York City Turns Over a New Leaf on Earth Day

4/22/2013
To celebrate Earth Day (April 22), New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Nissan Motor Co. officials announced a pilot taxi program to test six Nissan Leaf electric vehicles as part of a major effort to support cleaner air and a more emission-free environment in one of the country's largest metropolitan areas by having one-third of the city's taxi fleet be electric vehicles by 2020.

Leaf EV taxis will be charged and ready to hit the streets of Manhattan in six months, according to a Nissan Commercial Vehicles official, who said that Nissan is looking for ways to optimize electric vehicle technology through different applications.

Charging stations are another component of the city's EV taxi program. Nissan and partners in New York City will install several quick chargers (CHAdeMO-based DC is a quick name for a direct-current quick-charging method for battery electric vehicles) to help drivers recharge their electric taxis faster during a shift. Nissan states that a Leaf can be recharged to 80% in less than 30 minutes with one of these quick chargers.

The Nissan Leaf compact car has been on the market in the United States for three years and Nissan says that it has delivered nearly 60,000 units worldwide. For the 2013 model year, Nissan has increased the driving range from the previous model; shortened the charging time; and lowered the base price on the 5-door hatchback EV, which is now being built at Nissan's U.S. plant in Smyrna, TN. The Leaf is powered by a Lithium-ion battery.

During the first 3 months of 2013, Nissan has sold 3,539 Leaf EVs, which is up from 1,733 unit sales in the same period a year ago, according to research from J.D. Power and Associates. In 2012, Nissan sold nearly 10,000 Leaf vehicles in the U.S. market.

J.D. Power's strategic partner LMC Automotive forecasts that in another 12 years, slightly more than one-third of vehicles being sold will have alternative powertrains. A small 2.5% of the product mix will be EVs; 5.0% of the mix will be plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs--including the Chevrolet Volt), while 12.5% will be hybrids and 10% diesel-powered vehicles.

Earlier this year, in his State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg outlined plans for a major increase in parking and charging stations for EVs in anticipation of even more electric vehicles hitting the streets of New York, taxi cab or not. His plans call for piloting curbside fast chargers and working with the City Council to amend the Building Code so that up to 20% of all new public parking spaces in private developments will be wired and ready for EVs, creating up to 10,000 parking spots for electric vehicles over the next seven years. The mayor also plans to add 50 EVs to the city government's fleet.

In the mid-2000s, many taxi cab operators in New York City experimented with Ford Escape Hybrids as taxis before Ford discontinued the hybrid option this year. Many other taxi operators in cities outside of New York, such as Los Angeles, continue to expand their use of Toyota Prius hybrid taxis.

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