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Arlington Board Puts Brakes on All-Electric Taxi Fleet

EV Taxicabs wanted to launch the country's first all-electric fleet in Arlington.

EV Taxicabs will not launch of the nation's first all-electric taxi fleet here.

The Arlington County Board on Monday would not give its blessing to the venture, voting 3-2 against issuing the necessary operator certificates to the Arlington-based startup. 

"Arlington is my hometown. I wanted to start it here," Malik Khattak, president of EV Taxicabs, said afterward.

"I can't speak to their personal concerns, but we did our best to address each and every issue."

Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey voted in the affirmative.

The company, as part of its application, had promised to install 56 charging stations throughout the county, at its own expense, over a two-year period.

"This is exactly the kind of innovation, the kind of opportunity, that we need" to meet the county's environmental, energy and other goals, Fisette said.

But he was in the minority.

Concerns among board members and from past public testimony included battery life and the viability of electric vehicle technology.

Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes was hesitant to support the company Monday for a number of reasons, including the county's lack of a strategy for deploying electric vehicle charging stations.

"If we're going to do it, we're going to have to get it right," Vice Chairman Walter Tejada said, adding it was important for the board to not get caught up with being first in the nation.

Fisette argued that the lack of electric vehicle infrastructure was why it was important to support EV Taxicabs — the worst-case scenario determined by county staff was that the company would go out of business and the county would be left with the infrastructure without having to spend public dollars.

Veronica Anthony, speaking for the company, said EV Taxicabs regretted the county board's decision, but thanked the long list of partners they had acquired — including Nissan North America, Dominion Virginia Power and AeroVironment.

Eric Cardwell, vice president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, told Patch that Arlington County missed the opportunity to "jump start the industry," particular in the Washington metropolitan area.

EV Taxicabs' proposal, he said, would have made Arlington an "electric vehicle destination," attracting owners of such vehicles from across the region — likely enticing them to shop and dine here.

"We're highly disappointed that the county board couldn't see that now is the time," Cardwell said.

Khattak said EV Taxicabs would explore other options in the greater Washington area. The company is willing to work with the county over the next two years in hopes of gaining the board's confidence, he said.

The Arlington County Board heard several hours of testimony regarding issuing new taxi certificates late Nov. 27 and early Nov. 28.

EV Taxicabs was one of 10 companies to apply for new certificates this year. The county accepts applications biennially.

In all, the 10 companies requested 323 certificates from Arlington County, including 23 for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Arlington has 765 cabs. County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended adding 65 new certificates — including 40 to EV Taxicabs.

Instead, the board on Monday awarded 12 certificates to Friendly Cab Co., a longtime Arlington-based company, along with five certificates for wheelchair-accessible cabs each to Red Top and Blue Top — for a total of 22 new cabs.

Monday night, members of the Arlington United Taxicab Operators/Tenants and Workers United covered their mouths with gags while a few held signs asking the county not to "silence" taxi drivers.

The union had asked the county not to issue any new certificates, saying that would not be in the public's best interest and would "expand the reach of an already dysfunctional taxicab system that makes cabdrivers part of the working poor," according to a letter from the union to the county board.

C.D. December 12, 2012 at 02:44 AM
What is going on here? The County Board could have awarded a few taxi certificates for a test fleet of EV vehicles.

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