A small fleet of five Hyundai ix35 fuel-cell taxis, brought in for the COP21 climate talks, have been plying the streets of France’s capital since 2015, operated by the Société du Taxi Electrique Parisien (STEP). That was novel enough, but now Hyundai says the fleet is about to grow—dramatically.
“STEP and Hyundai Motor have committed to bring 60 additional ix35 fuel-cell taxis to the streets of Paris,” said Thomas A. Schmidt, chief operating officer of Hyundai Europe. “Not only will the fuel-cell taxis provide a clean transportation solution for the city, they are also a practical, comfortable and reliable choice for drivers and passengers.”
The ix35 is called the Tucson in the U.S. It has excellent range for taxi duty—594 kilometers (369 miles). There are now more than 300 ix35s on the road in 12 European countries.
Paris’s Hyundai fuel-cell taxi fleet is expected to grow to several hundred vehicles by 2020. Funding comes, in part, from the Hydrogen Mobility Europe Project, which itself is funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (a public-private partnership) and the European Union.
Battery electric cars also are also picking up fares. Nissan has more than 500 electric cars on taxi duty in Europe. And the Nissan Leaf was briefly tested as a taxi in New York, but the shorter range is an issue.
And fuel-cell taxis are, well in step with Paris’ plans for a cleaner central city. Cars in France are primarily powered by diesel, including Paris’ 17,000 current taxis. In 2014, Mayor Anne Hidalgo called for all diesels to be banned from the city by 2020. In addition to increasing pedestrian-only areas and doubling bicycle lanes, she said only ultra- or zero-emission cars should be allowed.
Air pollution is serious in Paris, and chronic exposure to it can shorten lifespans by six or seven months, Hidalgo said. Some 84 percent of Parisians support such pollution-fighting goals, according to a poll by Journal du Dimanche.
According to Hyundai, each of the Hyundais will save an estimated 800 tons of carbon dioxide annually, compared to diesels. That’s the emissions equivalent of 200 Frankfurt-to-New York airliner runs. Taxi duty isn’t the most glamorous use for these pollution fighters, but it’s a very good way to expose the maximum number of people to fuel cells and hydrogen.