With generous incentives now available in many countries across Europe, more people than ever before are making the switch to electric for their next new car, benefiting from cheaper full bills, zero tailpipe emissions and in some places, perks like free parking, congestion charging exemption or low tax bills.
But it isn’t just private buyers who are flocking to electric cars. Businesses are making the switch to electric too, including firms and self-employed owner drivers who operate taxi and minicab fleets.
During our travels, we’ve seen pretty much every production electric car pushed into service as a taxi in some form or another, ranging from the tiny Renault Twizy through to the Tesla Model S luxury sedan. But in Europe, it seems two cars stand out from all the others among fleet operators: the Nissan LEAF and its all-electric cousin, the Nissan e-NV200 minivan.
As Nissan detailed this morning in an official press release, a Hungarian taxi firm by the name of Green Lite Taxi Kft. has just become the latest taxi company to welcome the Nissan LEAF electric car to its fleet with a purchase of 65 LEAFs. The company, based in Budapest, can now lay claim to being Hungary’s largest zero emission fleet, and has also helped push the number of LEAFs in service as taxi cabs across Europe to more than 550 vehicles.
“We are delighted to be the first taxi company in Hungary to go 100 percent electric,” said Örs Lévay, CEO of Green Lite Taxi Kft. “Along with the large savings on fuel and maintenance, the Nissan LEAF is very smooth to drive and almost silent, which means a more enjoyable journey for my customers and drivers say typical 10 hour shifts are less tiresome.”
Lévay and his drivers are not alone. The UK tops the charts for the number of LEAFs operating as taxi cabs, with 124 LEAFs operating in private-hire fleets across the country. Meanwhile, while the Netherlands has only 27 LEAFs in service as taxi cabs, an impressive 167 Nissan e-NV200 minivans means that it snags the top spot for Nissan’s number one electric taxi market, with 194 Nissan e-taxis in service and beating the UK’s 134 Nissan e-taxis.
In third place comes Estonia, with 74 Nissan LEAFs in service. While Estonia isn’t exactly a large nation, it was one of the first countries in Europe to truly embrace CHAdeMO DC quick charging with a nationwide, government-funded rollout of DC quick charging.
In fourth place, helped by the recent order from Green Lite Taxi Kft., comes Hungary with 68 Nissan e-taxis in service, while Germany comes in fifth with 24 LEAFs and 6 e-NV200 minivans, giving it a grand total of 30 electric Nissan taxis in operation.
When the LEAF first came on the market, some enterprising private hire companies decided to purchase one or two LEAFs for city-centre or short-distance fares, reserving a hybrid or diesel-powered minicab for longer-distance fares. But as the LEAF has matured and its battery chemistry has improved, more companies are starting to use the Nissan LEAF as their primary fleet vehicle.
One such fleet is C&C Taxis, based in Cornwall, England. According to the company, it has saved more than £55,397 ($83,700) on average in fuel costs every year it has operated its LEAFs. With its own rapid charging station at its headquarters, drivers can make a pit stop during the day if required for a quick ten-minute partial top-up, or can make use of the charging station during regular breaks to ensure that their cars have plenty of range at all times.
We’ve heard of fleets elsewhere in Europe where owner operators — drivers who either lease their car from the taxi firm or buy their own car for use in the fleet — are opting to purchase the Nissan LEAF due to its low fuel costs, charging it up at night on cheap rate electricity before using it during the day for work. At weekends, those same owner operators use their cars for family use.
With the launch of the 7-seat Nissan e-NV200 earlier this year — something Nissan said it did primarily due to demand from the private taxi segment — it’s likely that the number of Nissan electric taxis will continue to rise across Europe in the coming months. Indeed, with cities like London setting new standards for taxi cab and private hire emissions, electric operation makes more business sense than ever before.
Of course, while we know how many LEAFs have been purchased brand-new for use in taxi fleets thanks to corporate sales data, it’s worth remembering that not all minicabs are purchased brand new. While some countries like the UK offer incentives to companies wanting to switch to a greener fleet, some minicab operators prefer to insulate themselves from the initial depreciation in vehicle value which occurs during the first few years of its life on the road, buying low-mileage, used off-lease electric cars at auction before licensing them for taxi use.
And that’s before you even account for the many independent LEAF drivers who make a little extra money on the side by using their LEAF for ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber.
Do you ride in an electric taxi on a regular basis? Do you own and operate one? Or perhaps you use your electric car for lift-sharing services. Let us known your experiences in the Comments below.
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