Published on April 3rd, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen4
Germany’s First Electric Taxi (Interview)
Germany’s first EV taxi has been rolling around Munich for the last year — a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Leased and operated by taxi company Isar-Funk, the little EV has been an experiment in balancing practicality with efficiency, and testing what it’s really like to spend the day in an electric car.
Isar-Funk’s CEO Christian Hess (51) spoke with Auto Bild about the experience of having the i-MiEV in the fleet and the stories Hess tells about having an electric car are in some ways surprising and in others exactly what one might expect:
Auto Bild: Tell the truth – how often did you end up with a customer in the car and zero battery power left?
Christian Hess: Well, once we had a customer who wanted to go to the airport from the inner city, which is about 36km (22 miles). The driver had to let them out halfway there at a taxi stand, because the batteries wouldn’t have made it.
AB: How did the passengers react [to the car]?
Hess: We saw a lot of acceptance over the year. Mostly the passengers were really excited to be in an electric taxi. But we did have to convince the drivers to actually drive it.
AB: Why were the drivers reluctant?
Hess: Well, the Mitsubishi is tiny, and not as comfortable. The range was between 100 and 120 kilometers (62-74 miles) usually, but in the bitter cold winter that went down to about 50km (30 miles). It was difficult to properly heat the interior of the car. That was fine for the passengers, who were only in it for a few minutes, but when the driver has to be in the car for half a shift –
AB: Half a shift?
Hess: Yes, between six and eight fares. One driver also pulled full shifts in the i-MiEV.
AB: It doesn’t sound as though you could make much money with an electric taxi.
Hess: When it’s 1,000 Euros ($1300 USD) a month to lease, not so much. That’s why we weren’t trying to do that from the start; it was more of an experiment. And I’m really satisfied with the test, even if there isn’t a single rapid charging station in Munich. We had absolutely no technical problems with the car all year, and we charged it overnight every night. With renewable power. I wanted to animate the taxi industry to be more sustainable.
AB: So now what?
Hess: We wanted to have 100 eco taxis by 2018, and we’ve got about 90 now. Mostly we have the Toyota Prius and some CNG cars. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is being returned now. Maybe we’ll start a new eco project.
Given a proper charging infrastructure within Munich — or any other city — the idea of an electric taxi does seem feasible and even rather fun; Isar-Funk managed to run its i-MiEV all year even without rapid charging stations.
What do you think — would you be excited to ride in an electric taxi? I know I would, but let us know what you think below.