The Tesla Model 3 has earned its checkers, as in the kind denoting a New York City taxi. The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) added the battery electric sedan to its approved list of vehicles last month, the Model 3 becoming the 21st nameplate on the list, and the first and only EV.
A spokesperson with the NYC TLC told Autoblog in an e-mail that the office doesn't know the party that submitted the Model 3 through the hack-up certification and inspection required to gain medallion approval, and it's not clear if the office could release that information even if it did know.
To complete the transformation into a Big Apple brougham, the relevant party will dress the Model 3 in that most fetching shade of Dupont M6284 yellow, add illuminated roof signage, taxi decals, place a partition inside between the first and second rows, as well as interior cameras to monitor first- and second-row occupants, and a fare meter. Once that's approved, a Model 3 entering service this year can remain on the job for a maximum of seven years under its Unrestricted medallion.
This is a return to form for the city, since NYC introduced an electric taxi called the Electrobat in 1896. That open car outperformed horse-drawn carriages of the era, even though it took four hours to swap the 1,200-pound battery at a converted ice-skating rink. The EV taxi fleet grew beyond 1,000 cars, and they held the advantage into the early 20th century until gas-powered cars became easier and less expensive to run.
The TLC ran a pilot program from 2013 to 2015 trialing five Nissan Leafs for the role of official New York taxi, three with individual operators, two with a fleet. The TLC's final report noted that the individuals were "very satisfied" with the hatchback, but the fleet operator had a hard time getting mercenary drivers "personally invested in learning how to optimize the vehicles’ ranges." This was back when the Leaf was rated at 84 miles on a charge and infrastructure wasn't what it is today, so range issues cropped up, especially when inclement weather necessitated constant HVAC use.
The Model 3 Standard Range is rated for 240 miles; the 2014 Taxi Cab Fact Book said the average taxi does 70,000 miles per year, or about 192 miles per day if driven every day. If the Leaf could hold on for the entire program with just 84 miles to play with, the Model 3 should fare (get it?) much better. Tesla expressly forbids any Tesla operating as a taxi from using its Superchargers. The attentive driver equipped with the $450 charger adapter might eke out a full day without pause, yet Level 2, CHAdeMO, and CCS chargers are spread liberally throughout NYC.
When Autoblog asked the TLC why other EVs hadn't been added to the list, the spokesperson told Autoblog, "I can’t really speak to the reasons why no one has submitted those vehicles for checking against the TLC’s specs."
An Autotrader article tabbed the Ford Escape Hybrid as "the highest-mileage taxis in New York." As more affordable electric cars and crossovers come onto the market, we'll likely see an enterprising outfit work to get some of them certified, too.