Monday, November 26, 2012

Open Letter to the Arlington County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, 27 November 2012, at around 18:15, the Arlington County Board of Supervisors plans to hear final comments on EV Taxicabs' proposal to add 40 100% electric Nissan LEAFs to the to the fleet of vehicles certified to operate in the County before a final vote planned for later that evening.

#1 Courthouse Plaza
2100 Clarendon Boulevard
Room 307
Arlington, VA

This is my open letter to the County:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board,

I address you today as an Electric Car driver with over a year experience with what an area EV driver can expect in terms of mileage and usage in our Northern Virginia climate.  You see, I live in Herndon, Virginia, quite near to Dulles airport—I often hear the planes overhead at my house—and generally drive at least 70 miles a day between home and work with no chance to charge my car in between.  In fact, I come to you today having driven from my home this morning to my job in Southeast D.C. and here thereafter with not a single opportunity to supplement my car's energy.  But I'm not worried about getting home because I drive the same car, a Nissan LEAF, which EV Taxicabs is planning to roll out in its bid to the Board.  If I could make it from my home near Dulles Airport to a point farther than Arlington County and back again on a daily basis, at mostly highway speeds, in rain or shine, under all weather conditions, and still have enough juice in my ride to go another 10 miles, I can guarantee EV Taxicabs can handle any average fare to the airport and still make it back with miles to spare.  And for the record, I've never run out of fuel and I've never heard of any EV driver who has.  We're well prepared for our daily needs and quite knowledgeable about how far we can go and where we can stop along the way if need be.

As for fast charging using the CHAdeMO standard, which stands for stop and have some tea, this use case has already been well studied by EV Taxicabs and as an independent driver who writes extensively on the benefits and limitations of electric vehicles and the Nissan LEAF I wholeheartedly and unabashedly concur with their proposal.  EV Taxicabs has already attested through actual real-world analysis that a typical electric taxi will only need one CHAdeMO or Fast Charge per day.  But that said, it's Nissan itself that has said multiple fast recharges of their LEAF in the same day would be okay as long as the battery temperature stayed below a certain threshold.  This might be a concern for temperatures like they have in Arizona but in Arlington it doesn't get nearly that hot.  And again it's EV Taxicabs', and Nissan, who take all the risk if this be not the case.  Nissan is very interested in seeing the results of EV Taxicabs usage, including multiple fast recharges.  That's the only real test of a battery's longevity.  And Nissan is willing to stand behind this proposal.  And as far as where these fast charge stations will be located, EV Taxicabs has already planned that out too.  Put them where the drivers can stop and have some tea, metaphorically.  But not only will the cab drivers, we ordinary citizens will have access to these stations.  And I urge the Board to consider this indirect consequence: drivers like me who might never stop in the county now have an incentive to do so.  Now, instead of heading straight back to Fairfax County from work, I have an excuse to stop of in Arlington, buy a tea, coffee, sandwich, book and what have you and then be on my way to some other place rather than home.  You free me to travel farther and in return you generate more business in the County.  And it would cost the County absolutely nothing.  The risk is all EV Taxicabs and even if they fail the County gets to keep whatever CHAdeMO stations they leave behind so we can continue to have our tea in the County.

It's clear that somebody has to be first, but this isn't the case for EV Taxis.  EV Taxis have had great success in London, UK, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Toronto, Ontario Canada, Mexico City, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Even New York City is adding EVs to their very tightly controlled Taxi fleet.  And surely if cold New York and hot Sao Paulo can handle an electric taxi, Arlington can.  It's too late to have the pride of being first, but what EV Taxicabs proposal builds on the successes and failures of those other electric taxi corporations.  Their plan is tested and proven and good for the county.  And let's not forget this isn't a permanent assignment.  If they don't perform to EV Taxicabs expectations in terms of business, those allotments will revert back to the county in good time.  It's all EV Taxicabs risk to fail, the county and the county citizens won't have to spend a dime if these cabs don't perform.  That's a risk EV Taxicabs is willing to take, and one they and I feel very strongly about its success!

And let's not forget the potential tourism it could generate to say Arlington County, Virginia is the place to go to get an Electric cab.  If Congresswoman Janice Hahn or Senator Lamar Alexander were here, I'm sure they would agree with me, be they given a choice, that they would rather ride in a Nissan LEAF taxi than any other car.  Believe me, those of us who made the switch always feel a bit out of sorts when we're required to ride in a conventional vehicle.  That's an advantage EV Taxicabs has.  I even spoke with former Loudoun County Supervisor Stephens Miller and he agrees EV cabs would be good for the county.  That's the kind of press that gets guest at our Arlington County hotels and restaurants, and not in Bethesda or Silver Spring or Alexandria.

As for where a Taxi driver can charge his EV overnight, a quick search of the Plugshare database shows no less than 26 public charging stations are currently on-line in Arlington County.  While it's true that it's sometimes hard to get a dedicated spot for refueling ones EV, many of the Vornado properties do have dedicated charging stations available to their residents and what's more most of those 26 stations won't be occupied at night.  For the most part, they're currently used by daily shoppers and commuters who go home in the evening.  And please keep in mind the cars EV Taxicabs will be buying will have what's called 6.6kW charging capability, meaning they can go from empty to full in under 3½ hours, or half a night's sleep.  Although 26 public level-2 charging stations won't be enough to satisfy all 40 cabs EV Taxicabs is requesting, part of their business plan, as I understand it, will be to ensure that each driver is properly trained and has a location to house his or her vehicle while off duty.  This is thanks in large part to their diligent pursuit of contracts with Nissan Motor Corporation to obtain cars at volume pricing.  With that come jobs for local contractors who Nissan and Aerovironment will hire with to install as many level-2 stations as required by EV Taxicabs' drivers.  Nissan and Aerovironment have worked with customers from the beginning and will do everything they can to make sure drivers have a place to charge their vehicle at night.  After all, this is a demonstration project for them as well, and it behooves them as much as EV Taxicabs to get it right.

Finally, I would address that the questionable County Transportation Committee recommendation, which I should point out comes without even a Quorum, proposes no less than to give business to those who already have it.  Is it no wonder EnviroCab was recommended the plurality of cab allotments?  Are we really going to reward the more business to those that already have it?  Are we going to abdicate any possibility of further competition?  I would be willing to wager EnviroCab's tests of an EV were flawed because their drivers weren't properly trained.  This won't be the case with EV Taxicabs.  They plan to have all their drivers undergo a coursework at Nissan HQ for the car they will be driving.  I have no doubt these drivers will be as skilled as any of my EV driving colleagues.  Keep in mind EV Taxis will cost less to run which will allow the passengers savings and that's the type of competition we need to keep prices down for all fares.  I will grant that EnviroCab received a very respectable score of 83 in the 17 November 2012 Board Meeting notes, Appendix B.  Indeed, only one company scored better: EV Taxicabs with a score of 84!

It's for these reasons that I urge the Arlington County Board of Supervisors to approve EV Taxicabs bid for an allotment of up to 40 cabs.  Their proposal is good for the citizens of the county, good for County Business, good for visitors to the region and good for the County Government's bottom line.


Jeffrey C. Jacobs
Electric Car Driver, Advocate and Writer

No comments:

Post a Comment