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Tokyo's Electric Taxi Experiment

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On: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 5:18PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Tokyo's Electric Taxi Experiment

In Tokyo Japan, a taxicab company has been experimenting with an all-electric, zero-emissions cab powered by  changeable batteries. One river, Yoshihiko Takahashi, says that customers ask him the same questions daily, such as “How often do you have to recharge? How far can you go? Does this car really have no emissions?”

Yoshihiko says he has grown used to the inquiries as he participates in a 90-day trial program offering taxicab services to patrons in three zero-emission taxis, and a designated battery-switch station is the first undertaking of its kind in the world.

"For most people, it's their first time riding an electric car," Takahashi said. "I don't mind the questions."

The electric cab was built by “Better Place,” a company based in California, and the program is offered in partnership with the Japanese government and Tokyo’s biggest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu.

The pilot program is testing the feasibility of replacing the Prius hybrid taxicabs with all-electric, no-emission cabs using the switchable battery technology to further reduce fuel consumption and combustion engine emissions.

The program is reportedly in its 2nd stage, comprised of evaluating battery performance and other measures. Better Place is hoping the test will go well and lead to mass production of the exchangeable-battery taxis for the city of Tokyo.

According to a recent Rueters article "The current test vehicles are converted Nissan Dualis SUVs, called Qashqai in some markets. Nissan is not involved in the scheme directly: an outside company has re-engineered the cars with batteries provided by U.S.-based A123 Systems."

The project has thus far involved over 700 responses to surveys taken by patrons, and the response has been very positive with 80% of recipients asking for all-electric taxi cabs in the future.

Driver Takahashi reports that "The car handles very well. It's extremely smooth—much more so than the Prius that I normally drive." The electric taxi's maximum range of just 62 miles on a full charge requires the taxi to have four or five battery changes every shift. Takahashi said that hasn't stopped him from taking on his average of about 23 passengers in a given day.


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