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USA: All-electric taxi firm may serve Arlington

Arlington County may soon be the first local area to offer all-electrical, WiFi-enabled taxicabs as the county expands its cab fleet by 65 cars, including 10 new wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

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By Patricia Sullivan, Wednesday, November 28, 4:32 PM

Travelers in need of a ride in Arlington County soon could be hailing an electric taxi on their smartphone and working — or playing — on a complimentary iPad while riding through the congested streets of northern Virginia.

EV Taxicab, a new Arlington-based company, plans to launch a fleet of 40 Nissan Leaf sedans — if it gets the lion’s share of 65 new taxi certificates that the County Board will award Dec. 8.

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“This is the future,” said owner Malik Khattak. His cars would compose the first all-electric taxi fleet in the region, and possibly the nation, he said.

Charging stations would be installed at the homes of drivers, Khattak said, and at least a half-dozen additional charging stations would be made available for public use near the county’s busy Metrorail stations.

Arlington County Board members had been scheduled to vote on the taxi certificates Tuesday evening. But board members, who had been meeting since 3 p.m. and who had heard more than 40 speakers on this issue alone, postponed a vote before adjourning at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday. First, however, they asked a series of questions about the plans of EV Taxicab and nine other companies who sought to add to the 765 cabs now operating in the county.

“What we’re asked to decide is not whether electric vehicles are the way of the future,” said board vice chairman Chris Zimmerman (D), but whether EV Taxicab should be authorized to operate in the county, whether the addition of 10 new wheelchair-accessible cabs to other vendors is adequate, and the reasoning of the county manager’s staff for splitting the new certificates among several taxi services.

Red Top dominates taxi service in Arlington with 350 cabs, including 23 wheelchair-accessible vans. Blue Top has 166 cabs, of which four are wheelchair-accessible. Each would be allowed to add five new wheelchair-accessible cabs under the county manager’s recommendation.

John Massoud, vice president of Blue Top, said the need for cabs that can handle people with wheelchairs is so great that his company almost went into default on a state contract because of difficulties in transporting people with disabilities in a timely manner. The company bought an additional van, which costs about 60 percent more than a typical cab, and offered drivers lower fees to operate it.

Several of the county’s seven current taxi vendors and those who want to join them urged the board to be skeptical of an electric vehicle fleet, with several promising to build all-hybrid fleets over time.

Sharif Shafik, an owner of Green Line Cabs, one of the unsuccessful applicants, said: “I am not going to put my mother in an electric car to go to Dulles. It won’t make it halfway in 100-degree weather in our traffic.”
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