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We’ve seen the ‘Red Fleet’ of licensed taxis in the streets; the porteadores, or private chauffeurs; the illegal pirate taxis called piratas; and, in recent years, Uber drivers, loved by some and hated by others.
Now yet another category is upon us: electric taxis, if new cooperative in Heredia, north of San José, gets its way.
Quiet, efficient and economical is how the cars are described by Alfredo Espinoza, one of the promoters of the new taxis he hopes to bring soon to the streets of Heredia. The idea came to light during a conversation among guests at a wedding reception, he explained.
“We were talking about how Costa Rica produces so much electricity,” he recalled. There is hydro power, thermal and solar power. With so much electricity, why not use if for cars?
“So right there we formed a group called Generation H: H for Heredia where we are located, and Generation because we are all different ages,” he explained. “We are all professionals with different backgrounds, so we understand the process of putting plans into action.”
Espinoza is a retired specialist in auto mechanics who has worked in the United States and in Israel.
“Costa Rica is a small country. An electric car can cross the country on one electric charge, and you find electricity in every corner,” he added. “You can charge up an electric car from your own home. With 110 voltage it takes up to eight hours. With 220 four to six hours, and with a special converter, about thirty minutes.”
He calculated that about 90% of the driving in central Costa Rica is within the general metropolitan area, going to and from work or other short distances, and can be done on one charge per week.
“First, we tried to convince the taxi cooperatives in Heredia to consider electric cars,” he said. “They rejected the idea because of the cost. An electric car costs more than an internal combustion model but over the long run, even the medium run, you save. You save on fuel and maintenance costs.”
Looking for other solutions, Generation H found backing from the Public Service Agency of Heredia and decided to form their own taxi cooperative.
“With only two taxis to start off, we aren’t competing with other companies. We want to show them that electric taxis are feasible and economical,” says Espinoza.
The cooperative faces various obstacles. One is the price of an electric car in Costa Rica, about $36,000, although the electric car bill moving through the Legislative Assembly would cut import taxes to reduce those costs significantly.
Another is that the car Generation H hopes to use is not yet available. While various manufacturers are producing electric cars, Generation H hopes to use the Nissan Electric LEAF. Silvia Milano, in charge of sales for Nissan Costa Rica, says that before the cars go on sale, they must undergo tests to see how they fare in Costa Rica’s driving conditions.
Finally, charging stations and trained mechanics for the new types of motors and systems will be needed. The first charging station opened in February in San Ramón.
Milano said that Nissan have received a lot of interest in the LEAF and expects that in ten years’ time most of the cars on the roads will be electric.
A look through the 2017 LEAF is an eye opener. A knob in the between the front seats puts you through the gears, and the controls on the dash show energy levels instead of fuel. The motor is compact and there are none of the standard components like spark plugs and radiators.
In fact, a glance under the hood reveals a strangely bare space! The most important accessory is in the trunk: the cable and plug to connect your car.
As Costa Rica move toward an electric car future, one cooperative in Heredia is raring to take to the streets with its own fleet of quiet, comfortable, and clean-air taxis.
See also: Lawmakers exclude full hybrids from electric cars bill