British Columbia

Tesla taxi hits the road in Vancouver

Longtime cab driver Shaminder Rattan says new regulations mean he can drive an electric vehicle and lower his carbon footprint at no extra cost.

Cabbie Shaminder Rattan believes his new Tesla Model 3 Yellow Cab is the first of its kind in the city

Taxi driver Shaminder Rattan believes his Tesla Model 3 Yellow Cab is the first of its kind in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Shaminder Rattan figures he'll be making local taxi history when he silently cruises out of the Yellow Cab lot in East Vancouver Thursday afternoon to pick up his first customer of the day. 

That's because he'll be driving a new, fully electric Tesla Model 3, which he believes is the first Tesla taxi in Vancouver.

"We're really so excited, and I'm excited too," he said. "Whoever going to be in the car first, he's going to be a lucky guy, I tell you that."

Rattan, 62, has been driving cab for 34 years, 32 of those as an owner. 

He used to share his taxi licence and car with another driver, each taking a daily 12 hour shift. But changes in Passenger Transportation Board regulations spurred by the arrival of Uber and Lyft made it possible for each driver to have their own vehicle.

And having full control of his cab opened the door for Rattan to move to a zero emission electric vehicle and a clearer conscience.

"Everybody so concerned about the environment — what's happening on the globe it's really, really bad. And we, the cab companies, the truck drivers, are making so much pollution," he said.

Rattan says with a home charging station and 400 kilometre battery range, driving for 12 hours at a time won't be a problem. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

It made sense to him financially as well.  

Crunching the numbers showed that a monthly savings of $500 to $600 in gas, combined with several hundred dollars less per year to maintain an electric versus an internal combustion engine, would easily offset the purchase of a new $52,000 (plus tax) Tesla. 

"I'm not saving any money, but the same amount I used to pay [for gas] I now pay ... to the bank," he said. "And I'm driving a brand new car with fewer repairs and less downtime."

Tesla taxis aren't new in Canada or in B.C. 

Current Taxi operates in Victoria and Kelowna with an exclusively Tesla fleet. And Téo Taxi used to run some Teslas in its all-electric fleet in Montreal, until it shut down last year. The company has recently announced its intention to relaunch.

With a home charging station and a battery range of 400 kilometres, Rattan says he'll have no issues driving for 12 hours at a time.

He also figures the $2,500 spent turning his shiny new car into a branded Yellow Cab was money well spent.

"That's not paint, it's a wrap," he says of the yellow exterior. "It's so good! Anytime I want to rip it off I can because there's perfect white paint underneath."

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