Taxis Go Electric California Style with Project Better Place

Better Place's battery swapping concept comes to San Francisco taxis
Better Place's battery swapping concept comes to San Francisco taxis

Back in October I was on The Green Living Guy book tour, which included all of my books in the Green Guru Guides series. I went to Pennsylvania, California and New Jersey (for starters). However, I was doing business with my sponsors A Lot To Say, Inc. for the trip, and the Stanich sisters (who own the company) insisted I go to San Francisco since I was in the area. When I got there, I was so impressed with the electric trolleys all over the place that I called the Mayor’s Office (in San Francisco) to say “Hey, get some questions answered about emission reductions and energy savings for the city since they use electric trolleys.”  Days before an event with Project Better Place, they asked if I was going to be in town. I wasn’t, but this is the dish: they’ve gone electric with their taxis.

Better Place, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission plus:

  • Taxi operators and car sharing programs: Yellow Cab Cooperative, Yellow Checker Cab Inc.;
  • Regional and state agencies: Bay Area Air Quality Management District;
  • Consumer and EV organizations: Plug-in America, AAA Northern California;
  • Leading regional business/community organizations: Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, Bay Area Climate Collaborative, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, and others; and
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

ALL teamed up for an electric taxi program with the cities of San Francisco and San Jose.

Taxis are all over the places so they can help the mass market get acclimated with the technology and build these battery swap out stations (Better Place’s main concept) along the San Francisco to San Jose corridor.

Can San Francisco taxis really make a difference?

According to a press release from Better Place,

While gas-powered taxis are fewer in number than personal cars, these high-mileage vehicles are disproportionally responsible for harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) and other tailpipe emissions, so electrification of this fleet is essential to making a real impact on air quality and oil consumption. Since taxis drive nearly continuously, they require instant charge of their battery to maintain quality of service and continue serving the public. Given the taxi business, waiting three to four hours for standard charge is not an option. Battery switch is the only option that allows the driver to recharge in less time than it takes to refuel, the means of range extension for today’s gas-powered taxis.

According to Better Place, they believe they are on schedule for for commercial launch in Australia, Israel and Denmark  this year. We’ll see but things look interested for Shai Agassi, President of Project Better Place. I say build your own electric vehicle. He is doing it!!

Bamboo is a really versatile material! See our current selections of clothing, rugs, bedding, and housewares all made from this eco-friendly material.

Image credit: Better Place

  1. Bobby B.

    Maybe this is the answer for a place like California. A place that has become anti-industry and currently purchases much of its power from across state lines. However, is this the answer for everyone? How does it impact the neighboring states that host the utility companies who provide the electricity to California? After all, when you break it down to brass taxes, electric cars really run on coal.

  2. Akhil J.

    California is not anti-industry. Their policies are creative regulation policies which will ultimately produce disruptive technologies (like electric vehicles) which will push their industry ahead of the rest of the country.
    How will it impact neighboring states? It will create a ton more utilities jobs in our country and stop our dependence on foreign oil.
    And you are right: electric cars do run on coal. But cleaning up our environment is a two step process. First we have to clean up our transportation sector, and then we have to clean up the grid.

  3. DaveMTL

    Akhil is right. A ton new jobs on this continent and less elsewhere. Elsewhere is, unfortunately, a place which often dislikes both Californians and those from “across state lines”
    Lastly, this permits California to start looking into alternative energy since it finally has a way to translate clean power produced at times which are less than ideal, into power useable when needed. The batteries will help level the load since the power is captured at it’s best time and distributed as needed.

  4. Kent G

    Too many people accept without careful analysis the false argument that electric cars are ultimately powered by coal. A careful person will recognize that there exists two distinct but important areas where pollution can be created with motor vehicles: (1) pollution created by the vehicles themselves and (2) pollution that is NOT created by the vehicles themselves, but created when producing the fuel that the vehicles operate on. Electric cars beat gas cars in both areas. First category: electric cars do not generate any pollution AT ALL from the tailpipe — in fact they do not even have tailpipes. Of course, we all know that gas cars generate a tremendous amount of toxic gas. (If you do not believe me, here’s a little test you can do at home: pull your car into your garage and close all doors and windows. Start your car up and start a timer. See how long you can stay in the garage before you croak. Whoops maybe that is not such a good idea to test after all). Second category of pollution (i.e. that created in production of the fuel: It is indeed a fact that some power companies use coal to generate electricity in many areas — most estimates of coal’s total share seem to be in the 50% range. So I accept this fact to be true and that electric cars thus contribute to air pollution when they use this coal generated electricity. What this argument does NOT consider is the equally true fact that it takes a significant amount of electricity to refine oil into gasoline — an average of 6 kw per gallon of gasoline (which is enough electricity for the average electric car to travel 16 miles). So those people who switch from using gas vehicles to electric vehicles do NOT suddenly start using a fuel that needs coal to produce it — both fuels need coal for their production (but unlike with gas vehicles, one can eliminate this coal use by using only electricity that was produced from renewable sources (like solar and wind power). But one also needs to consider all of the pollution that is created in other parts of production: consider the many people and animals that die and the vast pollution created from the many oil spills that occur over time. Consider the incredible pollution that resulted from the massive oil spill in the Gulf in 2010 and from its clean up! Many people died as did many sea animals. Many people lost jobs and fortunes due to the massive pollution that fouled the water, air and land for many miles. Or the tragedy destruction from the Exxon Valdez spill. The EPA recorded over 42,000 reported oil spills in U.S. navigable waters in the twenty year period from 1980 to 2000! Moreover, this huge number includes only the REPORTED spills; the EPA estimates that this number makes up only 1% of the actual total spills, meaning there were over 4 million spills during this period! (To my knowledge, there has never been an electrical spill that has polluted any US navigable waters). So, clearly, when considering all of the pollution created by the extraction, transportation, storage and use of petroleum/gasoine, electric cars are cleaner than gas cars in this second category as well. This argument that EVs are powered by coal and no better than gas cars is complete baloney created by the oil companies to try and find a way to attack the much, much cleaner electric cars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *