Correction: This story originally reported that New York City would get 100 Nissan Leafs as a demonstration fleet. The correct number is 6.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has chosen Nissan's NV200 minivan to be its next taxicab, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday.
The Nissan van will join New York City's taxi fleet beginning in 2013, and be the official taxi of New York for the following 10 years. All taxis currently on the road, including the city's newer hybrid cabs, will be phased out by 2018.
As part of the deal, Nissan is also providing the city with up to 6 plug-in electric Nissan Leaf to be used as test vehicles by taxi owners interested in going all-electric. Nissan will also install charging stations within the city for easy accessibility.
The NV200 vans themselves will be equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder power train, and the option exists to convert them into plug-in electric vehicles. That's not surprising considering New York is considering eventually making its fleet of over 13,000 taxis all-electric.
The taxis seem to be designed with both tourists and locals in mind.
Features include a moon roof with a shade option for easy gawking at New York City skyscrapers, as well as 12-volt outlets and USB ports for cell phones and laptops. The car will also be equipped with a low-key horn system that blinks an exterior light, in addition to honking a gentler-sounding horn as part of an effort to reduce noise pollution.
It will also include GPS navigation, a tool that has been somewhat controversial in the world of taxis as many U.S. drivers, citing privacy rights, have been against the use of the device in conjunction with a tracking system. Two years after New York City did install GPS-navigation and tracking systems in its fleet, it was discovered that taxi passengers had been overcharged by over $8 million within a two-year period because many drivers had been illegally charging double rates within single-rate zones.
Mayor Bloomberg claimed during his press conference that this will also be the "safest taxi ever." For the first time, New York taxis will include rear passenger airbags. The van also passed its crash tests not just as the NV200 street model, but as the taxi model which includes the partition wall and other taxi components.
The choice is the result of a multiyear process started by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2007 with its Taxi 07 project in conjunction with the Design Trust for Public Space that displayed concept taxis at the 2007 New York Auto Show.
The commission then put out a request for information in 2009 to suggest NYC Taxi features, followed by a request for proposals by automakers and designers. The taxi commission then also conducted an online survey of its three chosen finalists for the "Taxi of Tomorrow."
The NV200 was chosen over other finalists that included Ford's Transit Connect van and a van made by Turkish automaker Karsan, which offered to build a plant to manufacture its vans in Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of the deal.
The taxi version of Nissan's NV200 for New York will be manufactured at the Japanese automaker's plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico.