NEW YORK, (Washington Insider Magazine) – Controversial scooter startup Revel plans to launch its fleet of Tesla taxis in Manhattan next week after a heated battle with New York City regulators.
The service will launch next Monday and provide rides in 50 Model Y Teslas in Manhattan south of 42nd Street.
Revel — famous for its ubiquitous blue scooters, which drew controversy last year after a trio of fatal accidents — is able to launch the service due to an apparent change of heart by New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Revel first announced plans for its Tesla taxi fleet in April under an exemption to the city’s cap on for-hire vehicles allowing new licenses for electric taxis.
On June 22, however, the TLC threw a wrench into the company’s plans when it issued an emergency rule change eliminating that exemption, a move that baffled observers including Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
But because Revel had initially sent its Tesla taxi paperwork for TLC approval in March — months before the rule change — the TLC ultimately decided to approve the company’s plan, a Revel spokesperson told The Post.
“The truth is we didn’t know whether these licenses were going to be approved by the TLC,” the spokesperson added.
In a statement to The Post, TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg said, “Revel is currently operating 15 cars because they submitted and completed applications prior to the June 22 Commission Meeting and vote.”
Asked if the company’s assertion that it will have 50 cars on the road within three weeks is accurate, Fromberg added, “The TLC cannot comment on applications that are in progress.”
Revel CEO Frank Reig had clashed with the TLC in June, accusing the agency of protecting Uber and Lyft’s control over New York ride sharing by imposing the electric vehicle cap.
But in Monday’s announcement, the CEO changed his tune.
“We’d like to thank Commissioner Jarmoszuk and the TLC for supporting New York City’s climate goals, and working with us to get the city’s first all-electric, all-employee driven fleet on the road,” he said.
Demand for Revel’s service has soared amid sky-high ride-share fares and a dire shortage of taxis, with 50,000 New Yorkers on a waitlist to use the service, the company said.
As of Monday morning, 49 out of 50 of Revel’s Model Y Teslas had received plates, and at least 15 have already passed inspections, a Revel spokesperson said. The vehicles will be charged at Revel’s Bed-Stuy charging facility, which the company opened in June.
Revel expects at least 15 Teslas to be in service next Monday and all 50 to be on the streets within three weeks. The company says its Tesla taxi service, which uses full time workers rather than contractors, is intended to be an ethical and eco-friendly competitor to Uber and Lyft — but both of those companies have tens of thousands of cars on the street each day.
If Revel wants to scale up, the company will inevitably run into the TLC’s electric vehicle cap that was imposed in June. TLC Chair Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk has said Revel could put more electric rideshare vehicles on the streets if they purchase gas vehicles, take them out of service and replace them with Teslas, a suggestion Reig slammed as “the very definition of limiting market competition.”
“The plan was always to launch with a fleet of 50 cars,” Revel’s spokesperson said. “Any expansion will require working in concert with the TLC.”