Arlington set to vote on all-electric taxi fleet

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Photo -  (AP Photo/The Olympian, Tony Overman)
(AP Photo/The Olympian, Tony Overman)
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland

The Arlington County Board is expected to decide Monday whether the county will become the home of the nation's first all-electric taxi fleet.

The board put off a decision last week on whether to add 40 cars from the Electric Vehicle Taxicab Co. to the county's 765-cab fleet after more than two hours of testimony from cabbies and residents left board members with unanswered questions about the reliability of the electric cabs.

"I can't even hear what's going on I'm so tired," board member Jay Fisette said just before last week's meeting adjourned at 2 a.m. with the board's decision to put off the vote.

Concerns about the all-electric fleet center on the batteries of the Nissan Leaf cars that would be used. Cabbies and some county officials questioned whether the batteries would last long enough, particularly during peak hours or on long trips, so that they wouldn't strand passengers.

The Arlington Transportation Committee voted 5-0 against bringing the all-electric electric fleet to the county. But the county's staff is urging the County Board to approve the fleet anyway. Staff members plan to show at Monday's meeting that the battery technology used in the cars is "mature enough to deploy for taxicab service."

EV Taxicabs founder Malik Khattak said the cars, equipped with backseat iPads and wireless Internet access, are the future of the taxi industry and won't have any problems with their electric charge.

Most long-distance rides are prearranged, he said, and if a car isn't fully charged, he will contact a different taxi company to help the passenger reach his or her destination.

"This is something that has been done successfully in other parts of the world, and it's something that we can do here," Khattak said. "I feel very confident."

Khattak has pledged to install car-charging stations around the county to ensure that his taxis can recharge. Those chargers would be available for public use for a fee.

The board is expected to vote on the 40 electric cars, as well as an additional 25 taxis for various other companies, on Monday at 5 p.m.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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