Five years after introducing hybrid taxis to Arlington, EnviroCab is adding a plug-in electric vehicle to its fleet.
The company’s new Nissan Leaf, which has been on the road for about two weeks, is one of the first electric taxis (the company claims the very first) to be introduced to the Washington area.
“It has been very popular,” said Cord Thomas, co-founder of EnviroCab. “People have started to call and ask for it specifically.”
Depending on how things go in coming months, Thomas said the company may add more electric vehicles to its collection of 50 cars.
“I want to get a sense of its ability and its range first,” he said. “But so far, it’s very smooth — there’s no gear-shifting or anything, you just zoom.”
The company paid about $36,000 for the car — about $10,000 more than what it spends on its hybrid cabs — and spent $6,000 installing a charging station at its offices on Columbia Pike.
“When we first got the hybrids, we heard from a lot of interested customers who wanted to just try them out without sales pressure,” he said. “We’re hoping that with the Leaf out there, the same thing will happen.”
Customers are charged the same standard rate for a ride in the electric vehicle as they are for other taxis in Arlington.
Thomas said he hasn’t calculated how much money the company will save on gas, but said he expects the purchase to be worthwhile in the long run.
The car is charged two times a day — once overnight and again halfway through the day. Even then, its range is limited to roughly an 80-mile radius, Thomas said.
“Going to and from Dulles Airport — it wouldn’t be a vehicle we could use for that,” he said. “But to go to Reagan Airport or taking people to the local restaurant scene or bar scene, it’s perfect for that.”
Three drivers currently take turns driving the Nissan Leaf. Each driver pays a fee that helps cover the car’s monthly payment of $1,000.
Thomas said the company’s co-founder, Hans Hess — the two also started the Elevation Burger chain in 2005 — came up with the idea to add an electric vehicle to EnviroCab’s fleet a few years ago.
“People don’t always think it’s the prettiest vehicle,” Thomas said, “but it stands out — and that’s important for a cab.”