Why a NYC Electric Taxi Service May Need to Buy 50 Gas Powered Cars

A NYC electric taxi service is in an interesting predicament. In order to operate, the company, called Revel, may need to purchase 50 gas powered cars. Why would an electric vehicle service need to buy gas powered cars? That’s a great question.

A parking lot full of blue Tesla Model Ys. Revel may have to buy 50 gas powered cars to get these in operation.
A parking lot of Revel Teslas | Revel

What is Revel?

Revel is an electric vehicle company that previously was known for its scooters. It faced scrutiny and had to halt its services after two of its scooter riders died in accidents.

What Revel wants to do in NYC is put 50 Tesla Model Y taxis on the streets. This would be great for the environment, especially considering how often NYC taxi cabs sit in congested traffic. It would also be a novelty, which could create a demand for electric cars. 

Why might Revel need to buy 50 gas powered cars?

A blue Tesla Model Y with "revel" printed on the side.
Revel Tesla Model Y | Revel

There’s an agency in New York City called the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), and they’re in charge of issuing licenses for taxi and livery companies. Previously, the TLC had decided to put a permanent freeze on new for-hire licenses, because the city was being overrun with new Uber and Lyft cars. There was an exemption for electric vehicles and wheelchair accessible vehicles, and this is what Revel was hoping to take advantage of.

Then the TLC contemplated eliminating the electric vehicle exemption. They felt there were too many for-hire vehicles on the roads, whether they are electric or not. This is despite the fact that there are 15,000 fewer for-hire vehicles in NYC than there were in 2018. Revel put in an application for licenses for its new fleet before the exemption was voted on, but their application was never looked at. 

There was supposed to be a meeting on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 to vote on the exemption, but the committee took matters into their own hands the day before. On Monday, June 21, the TLC posted a notice saying they had already voted to eliminate the EV exemption. Perhaps the strangest part? In the notice they posted, they wrote that it was decided in a June 22nd meeting – even though June 22nd hadn’t happened yet (maybe they operate on a different space-time continuum).

Okay, but how does buying 50 gas powered cars help a NYC electric taxi service?

A Revel driver stands outside a blue Tesla Model Y Revel taxi.
A Revel driver standing outside a Revel Tesla taxi | Revel

The TLC isn’t issuing any new licenses, except for those exemptions. Without those exemptions, there’s virtually no way for Revel to get a license for their cars; unless they purchase licenses from other for-hire cars. So basically Revel would need to purchase 50 taxi licenses from current holders of these licenses, and they’d need to have gas powered cars to do so. Then they could swap the licenses for electric vehicle licenses.

Unsurprisingly, Revel’s CEO is not thrilled with this idea. According to Electrek, the CEO of the NYC electric taxi service Frank Reig said, “We’re offering exactly what this commission has been asking for for years: fair treatment and stable pay for drivers — who are all W-2 employees with benefits — and a plan to drive EV adoption in the city. The Commissioners sat through almost three hours of testimony on all sides yet asked zero questions and spent zero time deliberating before making a policy decision with profound consequences.” 

If Revel does find a way to get their electric taxis on the roads, hopefully it will lead to less carbon emissions from for-hire vehicles. That can only benefit everyone.

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