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Nissan’s Leafs will make Zurich’s taxi fleet greener, but not how you think

Buying a green car is a great way to reduce your personal carbon emissions, but what if you’re just hitching a ride? Nissan has that covered too. A fleet of electric Leafs are set to take on taxi duties in Zurich, Switzerland in the coming months.

Ten Leafs (or is that Leaves?) will begin collecting fares immediately, with a further 10 scheduled to go into service by mid-year. By 2015, Nissan hopes to convert 15 percent of Zurich’s taxi fleet to electricity.

The Leaf taxis won’t be heavily modified. The only changes are meters and bright green vinyl wraps.

With plenty of stop-and-go driving, cities are better suited to electric cars than rural areas, but Nissan is taking extra steps to make Zurich EV-friendly. The Japanese carmaker plans to install a network of fast charging stations to support the taxis. Each station will be able to charge a Leaf battery pack from 30 percent to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Nissan says the electricity for these stations will come from green sources.

Zurich joins a handful of other cities, including Tokyo, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo, that operate Leafs as taxis. In Amsterdam, the Taxi-E taxi company operates a fleet of Leafs, and the cars are being tested as part of a feasibility study in New York.

If the Leaf taxi concept does take off, its biggest competition could be another Nissan. The NV200 van was recently declared New York’s “Taxi of Tomorrow,” and Nissan is pitching it as a replacement for London’s iconic Black Cab. An electric version, the e-NV200, is under development.

The Leaf is becoming an automotive jack of all trades. In addition to its new role as a taxi, its has been turned into a police car by the Portuguese police as well as a limousine. As the only readily available mainstream EV, it’s not surprising that organizations that want zero-emission vehicles are coming up with new ways to use Nissan’s hatchback.

If other manufacturers don’t follow through with electric cars of their own, perhaps people will continue modifying Leafs to fulfill different vehicular roles like an electric Model T or 2CV. Is there another job you think the Leaf would be good at? Tell us in the comments.

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