March 5, 2012
Taking the High Road: TAXI-E
After an Amsterdam reporting visit with TAXI-E founders Ruud Zandvliet and Edvard Hendriksen, I learned how the two university friends started their own sustainable eco-business, helping to change the Dutch travel landscape with a taxi fleet of Nissan LEAFs.
Q1. How did you get started?
Ruud Zandvliet: It was last autumn when we finally sat down together. We had been working for firms independent of each other for 4 or 5 years, and both wanted to become entrepreneurial ourselves. But we also felt very strongly that when we would do so that we would do it in a sustainable manner. We both studied in Amsterdam, so we were familiar with the Amsterdam taxi market. I think already 7 or 8 years ago we saw a business opportunity there.
Funnily enough, we saw the Nissan LEAF entering the market and that was, for us, the moment we thought it’s probably possible to start a successful taxi business using electric cars powered on green energy and then we can greenify a traditional polluting market completely, and make it an environmentally-friendly business solution.
Q2. What about the Amsterdam market uniquely supports an enterprise such as TAXI-E?
Edvard Hendriksen: What I’ve seen – in my previous job I was traveling around the world – is that in many countries the taxi market is better organized than in Amsterdam. Recent studies also show that the quality of the taxis in Amsterdam is low, while pricing is at the highest in Europe. For us, this was an opportunity to jump in and start a taxi service that provides a high-quality driver, car – everything that you may expect in a taxi.
RZ: We’re friendly to our guests – we open doors, we walk with umbrellas to the cars – and we are environmentally friendly. And so with that combination, and being price-friendly, those three – if we emphasize that – we have a much stronger storyline.
EH: We want to be sustainable entrepreneurs. For many people sustainability means subsidies, and we wanted to show that we can start a company that is profitable and sustainable – these two things together. That’s what we tried to do with taxis.
Q3. Why choose the Nissan LEAF?
EH: The LEAF makes it work because it is large enough. You can carry luggage for tourists to hotels, for instance. And it can drive 150 km or 170 km after charging.
Q4. In terms of sustainable business opportunities, what do you see as your potential for Europe?
RZ: What is crucial for the business model to work is that you have a small area for many rides – an area that is concentrated that allows you to create your own charging infrastructure. And that proposition can work in many cities – Paris, London, New York…but also in Bangalore.
For the environment, it will be a great benefit because all cities have to deal with pollution issues. That’s where electric vehicles can play a huge role because they are made for city life. The short distances, the acceleration – everything in the [LEAF] – is so much better than in a traditional car.
Q5. What is the future for TAXI-E – and will you be the largest fleet of EV taxis in Europe?
RZ: Let’s hope so. Our ambition is to have 100 electric cars in Amsterdam next year, hopefully before summer. We are currently building our own infrastructure. You saw our charging hubs. We currently have 50 owned-parking places with charging infrastructure, so that allows us to grow to 50, and we are thinking of expanding to have 100 cars in Amsterdam. And then when that works, we can think about copying it into other cities.
EH: But we will first roll-out to all the other Dutch cities before going to other countries.
Nissan Global Media Center