Could taxis be the best candidates for electric vehicles? No, not petrol hybrid cars, as we see at so many airports and in so many cities -the real thing, 100 per cent electric EVs?
First-generation thinking about EVs in the past has focused on the perceived weakness of EVs at the time, i.e. low range and slow charging.
It’s old logic: If an EV could only travel 150km in theory, and maybe as little as a third less if the car was driven aggressively and with the heater/aircon on full the whole time (even after the driver noticed the car was low on range), then it probably should only be used for short trips between overnight recharges.
This strategy would ensure that a driver never ran out of charge. This logic often resulted in the use of EVs for short duty cycles of less than 50km a day.
Often EVs were assigned as pool cars and spent most of their time parked and unused, limiting their use and range.
It’s now time to re-examine those first-generation assumptions.
- EVs now have a 300km – 600km range (only BMW has a range nearer 200km).
- EVs are coming out with fast-charging plugs as standard equipment. This means an EV can suck up electricity at a rate of around 30km – 40km every 5 minutes. So, a 5-minute top-up is enough to get back to base in almost all cases in any city and is equivalent to the time to fill up a tank of petrol. (Normal recharging is done at base – work or home.)
- The number of times an EV driver will need to stop for a quick “get back to base” top-up is probably only once or twice a year – the rest of the time the daily recharge at base will be more than enough for a day’s travel.
- The EV navigation system will show where the nearest chargers are.
- New ultra-fast chargers are 7 times faster than the fast-charger described above.
We also know that an EV’s economics stack up better against an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle, the longer the distance covered.
For example, a petrol vehicle doing 20,000km a year using 8L/100km (real world) at $1.50 a litre over 5 years will use $12,000 of fuel.
In contrast, a similar-sized EV doing a real-world 6km/kWh at $0.15 per kWh will use $2,500 of electricity. And that’s assuming that the EV never recharges at lower prices – there are a number of ways to re-charge at much, much lower average prices.
So why not extend that logic to taxis?
The ATO notes that the average taxi does 150,000km a year and uses 13.3 litres of fuel per 100km.
If that taxi was kept on the road for three years, it would use around $90,000 worth of petrol leading to a cost of operation of that vehicle over three years of around $128,000.
If a taxi owner used a hybrid and achieved 6.5 litres of petrol per 100km, their fuel bill would reduce to around $45,000, resulting in a total cost for the vehicle over three years of around $83,000.
In contrast, an EV (costing twice the amount of the petrol vehicle to purchase initially, and including the cost of charging infrastructure), would use around $11,000 of electricity and would cost $68,000 to run for 3 years.
Cost of taxi licensing, insurance and driver-labour were excluded from these calculations.
Concerns about using an EV as a taxi may revolve around range/recharge-rate and battery life.
Data available about battery-life, e.g. Tesla, show a loss in battery capacity of around 1 per cent per year, or per 50,000km.
So, after a three-year, 150,000km per year use-case, a taxi’s battery might have a reduced range of 10 per cent, i.e. a fully-charged range reduced from 300km to 270km.
Regarding range, if a taxi travels 411km a day (i.e. 150,000km a year), and has a real-world range of 300km, (and let’s always keep a minimum of 100km in the battery for that unexpected trip from Mornington to the airport), then the taxi may need to inject up to 200km of charge a day.
As described above, at 40km of range per 5 minutes of charge, this implies that the taxi driver may need to recharge a couple of times a day for about 10 minutes each time. Ultra-fast chargers will soon reduce that to 3 minutes.
In summary, it looks like EVs could be a good option for taxi operators to consider.
Bede Doherty is an independent consultant in climate change mitigation, specialising in transport including fuels/powertrains, fuelling infrastructure and emissions.