Once in a while here at CleanTechnica, we get hold of a story about someone who’s so excited about clean energy that the enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. So allow me to introduce Roberto San José Mendiluce. He drove the first 100% electric taxi in Spain, and he traveled over 392,000 kilometers with zero emissions and zero breakdowns.
“My aim is clear,” Mendiluce explained in a CleanTechnica exclusive. “I want to convey the environmental benefits and profitability offered by 100% electrical mobility. I want to demonstrate the reliability and minimal cost of maintenance of this type of vehicle.”
Mendiluce started behind the wheel of a Nissan LEAF in October, 2011. This first generation LEAF was manufactured in Oppama, Japan and was equipped with a 24 kWh lithium battery. He says he replaced the battery of the car after “having traveled 354,000 km with the original battery. For this reason, I set out to reach the 500,000 kilometers covered with a 100% electric taxi Nissan LEAF without consuming a drop of fuel.”
His adventure has been disseminated through multiple social media networks and news outlets, since his goal all along was to convince others of the benefits of zero emissions propulsion.
As early as 2014, Mendiluce was talking up his LEAF to his peers in the consumer transportation biz. “Reliability, performance, and the need to switch to 100% electric mobility systems are confirmed every day,” he affirmed to other taxi drivers who questioned him about durability of a zero emissions vehicle for commercial use.
Comparing Costs — LEAF to Touran
Roberto reminisced about the performance of his LEAF: “270,000 kilometers traveled, saving 21,060 liters of fuel, 18 oil changes, filters, brake pads, distribution kit, etc., etc., from visits to the workshop. Do not emit greenhouse gases and contribute to improve air quality … priceless.”
According to calculations provided by Nissan, an ICE vehicle would have spewed out 51 tons of carbon dioxide by that time.
Mendiluce told El Pais about his experiences as a public transportation driver. He owned a Volkswagen Touran for more than 4 years. With 320,000 kilometers traveled, he spent €30,000 on diesel.
He described to Iberisasl magazine what the comparison with his previous Volkswagen Touran 2.0 Tdi DSG taxi looked like.
- Oil changes (every 15,000 km) are 23. (€ 23 x 30) = € 690 euros.
- Engine oil filter changes (every 30,000 km) are 11. (€ 11 x 20) = € 220 euros.
- Air filter changes (every 30,000 km) are 11. (€ 11 x 15) = € 165 euros.
Oil filter changes (every 30,000 km) are 11. (€ 11 x 20) = € 220 euros.
- Oil changes DSG change (every 60,000 km) are 5 euros.
- DSG change filter changes (every 60,000 km) are 5 euros.
- Water belt / pump belt changes (every 120,000 km) are 2-3 euros.
- Brake pad changes (every 45,000 km) are 7 + 7 (€ 14 x 50) = € 700 euros.
- Changes brake discs (every 90,000 km) are 3 + 3 (€ 6 x 80) = € 480 euros.
The Leaf cost him 36,000 euros, and he thought that, if it held up to 300,000 km, he would be amortized. Actually, he accomplished that goal easily.
A Workday Schedule Like Any Other Taxi Driver in His Area
He traveled on average about 150 km day, with some days up to 200-280 km. He took advantage during meals/ dinners to recharge and stop. He called it a “matter of organizing. I can’t do long races, but for 90% of the rest I have no problem.” His charge at home was 3 hours and, at the point of rapid recharge, 45 minutes.
In addition, he assures everyone that the Leaf, with a 24 kW battery, did not limit him in his work. “I charged during the night and then, at lunchtime, I did it again,” he told EVPro. Therefore, the need to charge his car did not reduce the hours he needed to be sitting in the taxi. “I had to adapt, yes,” he admits, although it is clear that knowing the savings of the electric car was a compensating factor.
LEAF Taxi Performance & Reliability
“Only 4 autonomy bars and brake pads with 50% wear are lost,” he posted proudly on one of his social media channels. “The high temperatures reached in the summer months and the inexorable passage of time accentuate the degradation of the batteries.” He decried, however, those who moan about “the consequent loss of autonomy in 100% electric vehicles. Every day I see the battery status on the dashboard of the Nissan LEAF.” Battery icon visibility created comfort for Mendiluce, since he depended on the LEAF for his livelihood.
“The most surprising thing,” he continued, was that it retained “8 of the 12 autonomy bars and the brake pads with less than 50% wear.” He had hoped for “no setback” and the opportunity “to travel the 300,000 kilometers with a 100% electric taxi and keeping the ‘original factory’ battery.”
Access to Chargers in a Small Region Made the Difference
As the first Spanish taxi driver who ventured to rely on an electric vehicle for his professional life, he did not do so in a big city. It was not in Madrid or Barcelona but in Valladolid. That small city is where his home is located. Valladolid has only 34 public charging points, four operating for the Leaf (Mennekes charger) and two of them are fast chargers (one from Nissan and the other public).
However, shorter distances from one point to another allowed Mendiluce’ LEAF to fend for itself during a work day, as 90% of the daily runs are traveled with a distance of less than 5 km. The worst case scenario was a route to the airport or the technology park, about 15 km away.
Of course, like many of us who drive a Nissan LEAF, Mendiluce has a bit of Tesla envy. In his first contact with the Tesla Model 3/ Long Range Dual Motor version, he had one overarching impression: “I love (it).”
The Price of Being a Taxi Driver Can Be More than Money
Mendiluce’ goal was to reach 500,000 kilometers with this car, but an accident caused his vehicle to be declared totaled.
Despite the sadness over the loss, Mendiluce feels that the Nissan Leaf serves as an example of the affects of daily usage as well as the durability after using them for thousands of kilometers. He accumulated more than 392,000 kilometers on his taxi and has no doubts: his next car will also be 100% electric.
And his original goal to spread the word about the possibilities of driving a 100% electric vehicle for a commercial enterprise are taking root. El Pais reports that there are plans to increase the number of electric taxis. Madrid announced in 2016 its intention to put into circulation 110 all-electric vehicles, even though right now in the capital there are only 30 licenses that correspond to electric cars.
Optimism around electric taxis is gaining because subsidies for this group have momentum at the state, regional, and municipal levels. Cabify and Uber services have introduced all-electric vehicles, with the former boasting that 10% of its fleet is electric, while the latter showcases 50 Tesla Model S.
All images used with permission of Roberto San José Mendiluce.