Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Building an infrastructure electro taxi company: how relevant is it now in Russia?

The problem of transport loading is relevant for most large cities of the world, and Russia is no exception. Innovative solutions and technology development will help solve this problem. For example, creating infrastructure taxi companies with electric cars and hybrid cars. Such services can not only improve the quality of public transport, but also bring benefits both to its owners and to the urban economy and ecology. What are the advantages of such taxi companies and how relevant are they now?

Elizaveta Semina / RIA Novosti

What is the difference between an innovative infrastructure taxi fleet and an ordinary one

Infrastructure taxi fleet is a private or public organization, offering taxi services under a single brand. The main task of such a company is coordination of taxi drivers, provision of high-quality transport services through mobile applications or online platforms for convenient and transparent taxi order. Implementation of GPS monitoring system and other analytical tools optimizes the operation of the taxi fleet, allows to track the location of cars, control their speed and improve safety.

Modern taxi companies can offer additional services, such as free Wi-Fi, charging for mobile devices in the car and others. They have potential for collaboration with various companies and services such as delivery of food or freight. Innovative taxi fleet is a modernized version of a regular taxi fleet that features advanced technology and infrastructure.

The feature of an innovative taxi company is that special attention is paid to environmental aspects and improved passenger comfort. Control of car quality improves service and safety of people, guarantees reliability of services provided. Special benefits can be obtained by companies where hybrid and electric vehicles are used. If you think about opening a taxi company from scratch, it will be useful for you to learn about all the advantages and disadvantages of such eco-friendly and economical transport.

Advantages of introducing hybrid cars and electric cars into the taxi fleet

  1. Fuel savings. Electric cars reduce fuel costs about 5 times. If the new machine is used regularly, then recapturing 50% of it cost can be within three years.
  2. Environmental safety. Electric transport reduces the emission of harmful substances, including carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and solids. It leads to improving air quality in the city and reducing pollution.
  3. Low operating costs. hybrids and electric vehicles have fewer units in their design and parts in their engine, which simplifies their maintenance and reduces the cost of repair and replacement of spare parts.
  4. Image improvement. The introduction of electric vehicles into the taxi fleet will create a positive image of the taxi service and the city as a whole. It can attract more customers who are interested in environmentally friendly and innovative solutions.
  5. Increased level of comfort. Modern Chinese electric cars (e.g. BYD D1 and Geely Geometry C) and hybrids feature increased interior comfort, minimal noise, innovative solutions for passengers.
  6. Public support. Russia has various programs, subsidies and benefits for owners of hybrid cars and electric cars. It also allows owners of a taxi company to reduce costs and receive an additional profit.

It seems that the introduction of modern electric traction transport in the taxi service promises exclusively advantages, but this is not entirely true. Let us talk about challenges that the owners of electro taxy companies may face.

Challenges and obstacles in the creation of an innovative electro taxi company

The first thing that those who want to open a taxi company will face is investment costs for acquisition of new vehicles. Hybrids and electric cars tend to cost more than similar cars with internal c ombustion engines. For example, the cost of an electric car BYD D1, designed specifically for taxi and car sharing services, is about 3 million rubles. The Geely Geometry C3 will cost 2.3 million. There are cheaper cars that can be used in a taxi, so the question with the choice of the optimal model for the electro taxi fleet is still open.

Russia still does not have enough infrastructure to support electric transport. If we talk about electric cars, then their use in a taxi will be the best solution for megacities. For example, electric taxis can effectively provide services in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In smaller cities, where so far there is a shortage of charging stations, and the population is distrustful of the innovative solutions, hybrid machines can be used.

For reference, today in the Russian capital you can charge in the following places:

  • municipal city parking lots where you can put your transport for recharging and parking;
  • enterprises and organizations supporting the development program for electric transport of Moscow (MGTS, Rosseti, Mosenergo);
  • traditional petrol stations equipped with the necessary chargers;
  • parking lots of business centers, hypermarkets, residential complexes, etc.

If we talk about the cost of electricity, then it depends on many factors, including region of residence, tariff and time of day when charging is carried out. Connecting the car to municipal source, one cost per kW/h will be obtained, and if charged from a home outlet in a private house it will be different. For example, depending on the source the cost can vary from 4 to 20 rubles per kW/h. Full car charging of BYD D1 with a battery capacity of 70 kW/h will cost 210-1400 rubles. If the car has a less capacious battery, for example, 50 kW/h, then the cost of full charging will be lower.

Autonomy of fully charged BYD D1 is 418 km (this is a passport run, in practice the distance will be less).

Charging times also matters. It is most profitable to charge at night, when the demand for power is lower as many consumers (e.g. industrial enterprises) do not actively use electricity. Some energy companies offer variable rates for different times of day to manage demand and distribute evenly the load to the power grid. Charging at night, users can get better rates. But if we talk about the taxi company as a business, then it must work 24 hours, since people use taxi services at any time of day and night. Accordingly, charging only at night will not work.

You need to try to organize work so that electric cars charge as much as possible at favorable tariffs.

Suppose that an electric taxi in Moscow passes about 600 km per day, then the car will need at least two charges – respectively, charging exclusively at night will not work. In this regard, the question arises about fast charging stations, their number in the capital is not yet sufficient (in the regions the situation is still sadder). As for the battery full charge time from 20% to 100% (let’s take common 50 kW/h battery), then at slow stations this process will take 5 hours, on fast ones it will take 30 minutes. From a regular home outlet, the electric car will charge for about 10 hours.

An ideal infrastructure taxi company should have its own charging stations subsidized by the state. With preferential electricity rates, it will be possible to compete successfully in the passenger transportation market. Development and expansion of charging infrastructure, as well as stations for maintenance and repair of electric vehicles is a complex and expensive process. Business plan for the taxi fleet should take these points into account.

Another important point is the compatibility of electric vehicles with charging devices. Now this problem is very relevant. Charging stations established by public and some private companies, are not suitable for all electric cars. Carmakers like General Motors, Ford and others are switching to Tesla connectors, but there are no uniform standards yet – they are still being formed. For example, some Western and Chinese electric cars when charging at the wrong station can cause damage to electrical equipment, which will completely fail.

In the context of a taxi company, this means downtime and losses, not to mention expensive repair. It may take a month to replace the burned-out module while it is delivered by manufacturing plant. And there is a new block of at least 100 thousand rubles.

There is also a need to train taxi drivers in new technologies.

Drivers must learn how to drive safely and efficiently on electric traction to reduce downtime and maximize profit. That is, drivers must adapt to changes in the passenger transport industry.

The same applies to mechanics who repair electric vehicles. Today there is problem with the lack of the right number of specialized services for electric cars – there are really only a few of them. And if we talk about niche machines, the same BYD, then in Moscow (and in the regions even more so) few people know how to service them correctly. Then, to open a taxi company with a large number of, for example, Chinese electric vehicles, you need to send mechanics to China for training. Assessment of the possible costs of this process is extremely difficult.

Another important point is the battery life, while it has a certain number of charging and discharging cycles. A battery is considered fit if its capacity is more than 80% of the rated capacity. Electric transport with such battery can be used in the taxi service. But today it is difficult to say which mileage is equivalent to this one for Chinese electric cars – such statistics simply is missing, so it is impossible to predict. And a complete battery replacement is an expensive pleasure that any owner of an electric car will sooner or later encounter if he does not sell the car or dispose of it before.

Here the question arises with the disposal of electric vehicles. In China, for example, developed infrastructure for the disposal of spent electric vehicles exists as part of a special public program. There is no such program in Russia. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that the car that traveled 500 thousand kilometers in Moscow will simply be written off – it will rather be sold to the regions where it will end its life. So the fleet of electric taxi will gain at least some money for the waste electric car. In China, such a situation is hard to imagine.

Thus, without deeper state support, the creation of a taxi company with electric cars or hybrids is not an easy task, at least today. The state should understand that taxis are also public transport, which carries passengers on a par with buses and subways. If Russia considers as priority the development of electric taxi with the creation of all the necessary infrastructure and preferential tariffs for electricity, only then will the innovative taxi companies begin to operate efficiently and grow rapidly using renewable energy sources.

Which taxi companies are already using hybrid cars and electric cars

Despite some obstacles, innovative infrastructure taxi companies with electric traction machines have long been successfully operating not only abroad, but also in our country:

  1. Green Taxi. A taxi company in New York was created for passengers who are interested in eco-friendly and energy-efficient solutions. The park includes hybrids and electric cars, which helps reduce CO2 emissions and reduce dependence on petroleum products.
  2. Uber Green. A global taxi company offering taxi services using exclusively hybrids and electric vehicles. The company is actively developing its network of such cars around the world to offer passengers a greener variant of movement.
  3. Electro cab park in Sochi. The first electric taxi park in Russia appeared in this southern city and includes about three dozen Chinese and American car models. Cars run through Sochi and the surrounding area, preserving ecology of the popular resort town. The owner of the taxi company plans to connect Sochi and Moscow along the federal highway M-4 “Don” with a modern network of fast charging stations.

Of course, there are much more such electro taxi companies, but it is impossible to name even approximately their number – such statistics simply do not exist. You can say one thing for sure – that the number of electric taxi services will constantly grow, along with sales growth of electric vehicles in the same China, which only last year sold on its market about 5.7 million electric vehicles and hybrids.

Undoubtedly, existing problems impede the development of innovative infrastructure taxi companies with electric transport. However, the future is still for electric cars, so the one will win, who first looks forward, adapts to modern realities and conquers the market.

By Alexander Seroshtanov, director of the Chinese division of China Car Club

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