PHOTO CAPTION: Sir Richard Branson is shuttled between Cancun airport and hotel in prototype electric taxi driven by Victor Juarez during COP16 Climate Conference.

Electric Taxi Provides Shuttle Service for COP 16 Conference

Mexico City entrepreneur uses converted Nissan Sentra to demonstrate carbon reductions can be economically practical and profitable.

Published: 07-Dec-2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- Reducing carbon emissions brought together two likely collaborators at the UN's COP 16 conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Victor Juarez is a Mexico City businessman and eco-entrepreneur looking for ways to reduce the pollution in his megacity home, while also creating jobs and repurposing existing technology. With several business partners, along with the National Polytechnic Institute, his company, EAE developed an electric taxi cab based on the very popular model Nissan Sentra, known as the Tsuru in Mexico.

The other actor in this little drama is far better known. VIRGIN mogul Sir Richard Branson has started literally hundreds of businesses from record companies to international airlines to space tourism. But he is also increasingly concerned about the health of the planet and the impact that carbon is having on it. Sensing the ponderous pace of reaching international agreement on carbon reduction, he launched the Carbon War Room, the mission of which is to encourage finding ways to reduce CO2 using the engine of responsible capitalism. Branson and his CWR team would come to Cancun to announce their eco-labeling system for shipping. Using a massive database of some 60,000 merchant vessels, shippers now have at their disposal the energy efficiency rating of any cargo vessel on the high seas. The more efficient the vessel is, the less fuel it burns and the lower its operating costs. Those savings can be passed on to the shipper. Prior to this, they had no easy way to assess the efficiency of a vessel. Now each of the 60,000 ships in the International Maritime Organization's Energy Efficiency Design Index have an A-to-G rating, similar to the carbon ranking system used in the UK for automobiles: 'A' being the most efficient, emitting the least CO2 per nautical mile; 'G' being the worst.

The two entrepreneurs met up at Cancun airport this week, with EAE providing Branson and his small party with shuttle services during their short 19-hour stay in the Caribbean resort city. Branson had asked to have an electric car available for his brief stay to underscore his commitment to carbon reduction. That electric car was EAE's prototype Taxi, which utilizes an electric drive system provided by Michigan-based Azure Dynamics. Using advanced lead-acid batteries, the car is designed to be both efficient and affordable to convert and operate. EAE is working with private taxi fleet owners and bus operators in Mexico City to convert hundreds of such vehicles to electric, using local mechanics and garages. On the carbon reduction front, EAE has set a goal of 7 million tons of CO2 saved by 2018.

As a result of the meet-up with Branson and his Carbon War Room team, the two groups will begin working more closely. Says Juarez of CWR's staff, "Jigar (Shah), Peter (Boyd) and their staff were very effective and easy to have good chemistry with." While CWR's goal is to reduce "gigatons" of carbon using tools like the Design Index rather than relying just on government sticks and carrots, Juarez notes that his group's goal "is no small potatoes either."

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