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Japan’s Electric Taxis Falling Out Of Favor With Drivers

All is not well with Japan’s electric taxi drivers.

Two years ago, in February 2011, the city of Osaka introduced a fleet of fifty Nissan Leaf taxis. The deal was a cooperative arrangement between Nissan, 30 taxi firms, and the government–each was being subsidized to the tune of 1,780,000 Yen–over $21,000 at the time.

The car’s would clean up Japan’s clogged streets, an improvement on the ubiquitous, square-jawed Toyota Crown taxis used throughout Japanese cities.

And initially, reports Japan Today, they went down a storm.

“It’s not fatiguing to drive them. There’s no vibration or knocks from the engine,” said one driver. “They just glide smoothly. The electric power is far cheaper than outlays for gasoline, and there are few mechanical failures. Eventually we’re certain that EV taxis will become the most common type on the road.”

It’s not surprising to see the reaction, either.
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Like many countries, the incumbent taxis are often chosen for their reliability and simplicity, rather than their comfort or driving characteristics. That’s why New York is full of hardy Crown Vics, London’s streets are crowded with rattling diesel black cabs, and Mexico only recently relinquished the ubiquitous VW Bug. A Nissan Leaf really would feel like the future to the average taxi driver.

Turning tide?

However, problems have begun to emerge.

The first came in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, following 2011’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

As we reported at the time, many people were worried that electric cars would be giving off the wrong image–conspicuous consumption of electricity at a time when power was in high demand and very short supply. Electricity is no longer seen as the clean, safe option it once was.

There are other issues too–the cars themselves.
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