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Car News:  Oversteer

I Saw a Nissan Leaf Taxi Cab, and Now I'm Wondering...Why?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2017

I was walking around this weekend in our nation's capital -- that's Washington, D.C., for those of you in New York City -- and I was confronted with a rather surprising situation: Some person, right next to the White House, was operating a Nissan Leaf as a taxi cab. Another person was riding in it as a paying customer. And passersby went about their days as if this was a normal occurrence.

Just to be clear, ladies and gentlemen: This is not a normal occurrence.

Here's why: Even the newest, most modern, most efficient Nissan Leaf can only travel around 100 miles on a single charge of electricity. (Old ones can only travel something like 70 miles.) And once that charge has finished, the Leaf then requires a 6-hour recharge before it's ready to go again. So you drive it for 100 miles, you charge it for 6 hours. 100 miles, 6 hours. 100 miles, 6 hours.

As a result, doesn't it kind of seem like maybe the Leaf isn't the best taxi cab? Doesn't it seem like maybe you'd want a taxi that you can refuel quickly, or one that drives further than 100 miles between charges?

Now, D.C. is a pretty compact city, which might cause you to answer "no" to these questions. But consider this: The largest airport in D.C., Dulles International Airport, is located 31 miles from the middle of the city. So if you hail a Nissan Leaf taxi in downtown D.C., and you want to go to Dulles, you've just used up 60 percent of the taxi's day in one single ride -- assuming it makes a return trip.

Admittedly, there are a few things that could make it easier for the Nissan Leaf to be a taxi cab. One is fast charging: A Nissan Leaf can be equipped for faster charging than a typical 240-volt power supply, which drops the six-hour charge time greatly. But it doesn't diminish it greatly enough, as it still takes well over an hour to fully charge -- and studies show repeated fast charging can quickly deplete the battery over time. Another benefit is that D.C. may give some sort of discount to electric vehicle taxis -- whether in the form of a free (or reduced price) medallion, or a tax break of some sort.

But despite the strangeness of a Nissan Leaf taxi, there's very little on the Internet about it -- save for a 2012 Autoblog story that mentions the possibility of future Leaf taxis in the District. Nonetheless, it does appear a fleet of Nissan Leaf taxis has deployed, as I saw three during my time in D.C. -- or perhaps it was the same one each time, driving around, hoping its next fare doesn't ask to go to Dulles Airport.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Saw a Nissan Leaf Taxi Cab, and Now I'm Wondering...Why? - Autotrader