Arlington board puts the brakes on electric cabs

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Arlington County officials have denied the request of startup company to become the nation's first all-electric taxi fleet.

The Arlington County Board on Monday rejected a proposal that would've added 40 cars from the Electric Vehicle Taxicab Co. to the county's fleet. Board members cited problems with the technology of the cars and a lack of car-charging stations in the county as their main concerns.

The 3-2 vote against EV Taxicabs, which came after numerous countywide meetings and more than two hours of public discussion, surprised Malik Khattak, the company's founder, who said he was feeling confident just days before the vote.

"We did our best to address each and every issue," Khattak said. "I have no idea why [the company was rejected]."

Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes, who voted against the company, said a lack of a county strategy ultimately convinced her that now was "the infancy stage" of discussion and not the time for electric taxis.

Board members Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada joined her in voting against the cars.

"We don't know for sure how [the cars'] technology is going to sort out," Zimmerman said. "I feel like we're not quite ready for this yet."

Concerns about the all-electric fleet first arose when local taxi drivers began speaking out against the company's Nissan Leaf cars. Many cabbies and county officials questioned whether the cars' batteries would last long enough, particularly during rush hour or on long trips, so that they wouldn't strand passengers.

Despite the concerns, Arlington County staff gave their full support to the company, telling the County Board on Tuesday that the Nissan Leafs, which would've featured backseat iPads and wireless Internet access, are "mature enough to deploy for taxicab service."

Board members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey joined the county's staff in supporting the measure.

"This is the kind of innovative opportunity that is needed for us to meet the goals that we've adopted," Fisette said before the vote. "[All I've heard] suggests that it's do-able."

Khattak still hopes the company will become the nation's first all-electric taxi fleet, and said he plans to begin looking at other jurisdictions in the region for support.

The board said they expect an all-electric taxi company to be operating within county limits in the near future.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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