New York City, NY – One year after New York approved the Tesla Model 3 to enter its fleet of yellow cabs, the first one has hit the streets.
A Model 3 with medallion number 8P86 — the only electric taxicab in the city, according to public records — just finished its first full weekend of service, completing more than 100 trips over the two-day period. The electric vehicle is owned by Drive Sally, which operates a fleet of more than 1,000 cars that it leases out to cabbies and drivers for ride-hailing platforms in New York and Chicago.
Last fall, New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission added the Model 3 to its list of roughly 40 approved vehicles. Although the list includes several hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and RAV4 Hybrid, the Model 3 is the only fully electric vehicle currently allowed to function as a yellow cab.
The Model 3 first hit the road on October 30, and users on Twitter as well as electric-car blog Electrek spotted it soon after. Drive Sally pulled it for a few days to make some adjustments and, as of Monday, it has spent four days on the road with two different drivers at the wheel.
The EV is still in somewhat of a trial phase, Adriel Gonzalez, Drive Sally’s founder and COO, told Business Insider. Each time a driver comes back from their shift, Gonzalez interviews them to see what feedback, if any, they can give on piloting the city’s first electric yellow cab.
One of the first problems they encountered was that passengers had trouble getting into the car using Tesla’s unusual door handles, which sit flush to the side of the car. But Gonzalez says they’ll address that by adding a “push here” message.
As is the case with most electric vehicles, range anxiety — or, the fear of draining the car’s battery without a charging station nearby — is also a concern. Typically, Gonzalez said, cabs operate on a two-shift schedule, with drivers swapping out every 12 hours. But Drive Sally is running its new Model 3 one shift per day, allowing it time to charge the car at its garage overnight.
One driver couldn’t handle the stress and brought the car back after depleting some 50 miles of the car’s 220-mile range. Another had no problem draining the battery down to just five miles of range, Gonzalez said. He bets that in the long run, taxi and rideshare drivers will be willing to pay a bit extra for a car that doesn’t need to be fueled up, given that gas is one of a driver’s top expenses.
Gonzalez thinks that Tesla taxis could help reinvigorate the city’s yellow-cab industry, which has taken a major hit from ride-hailing services like Uber, Via, and Lyft. He also predicts that the city could, for sustainability reasons, start mandating electric cabs, so he’s looking to get ahead of the curve, even if the commercial charging infrastructure isn’t quite there yet.
Drive Sally plans to bring hundreds of Teslas to New York’s streets in the near future, but for now, the company is still working out the kinks. Gonzalez suspects that the EVs may be better suited for for-hire “black cars” than yellow cabs, and he also said that the more-spacious Model Y would likely work better as a cab than the Model 3, but they’re still too expensive.
New York isn’t the first city where passengers can hail a battery-powered taxi. Madison-based Green Cab converted its entire fleet to Model 3s this year, and Columbus Yellow Cab in Ohio bought ten of them in 2019. Amsterdam has had Tesla taxis since at least 2014.