City green-lights Revel e-cab fleet after months-long licensing squabble

One of 50 Revel-branded Teslas the company plans to roll out as part of an all-electric cab fleet.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The city approved Brooklyn e-moped sharing company Revel’s plans to roll out a new rideshare service with 50 Tesla cabs on Monday, Aug. 2, after the firm sparred with the Taxi and Limousine Commission for months about getting their vehicles licensed. 

“With our all-electric rideshare fleet and fast-charging superhub network, we’re investing in a zero-carbon transportation future,” said Revel co-founder and chief executive Frank Reig in a July 26 statement. “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.”

Revel plans to launch the TLC-licensed Tesla Model Y’s in its signature blue color next week, powered by a 150-strong workforce — including 125 drivers and 25 operations employees — offering pick ups and drop offs in Manhattan below 42nd Street.

New Yorkers can hire a ride via the Revel mobile app, but get ready to wait, because there’s already a waitlist 50,000-people deep, according to the firm. 

Revel first announced its foray into the cab market in April and tried to bypass a 2018 cap for new for-hire vehicle licenses on new TLC licenses by using an exemption that still allowed electric-powered car owners to get the permit.

But TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk threw cold water on the plans by getting the approval panel to vote to close that loophole in June, saying the city wouldn’t be “repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2018 restricted the number of new cab licenses to stem the influx of rideshare companies and their “race-to-the-bottom” business models, while flooding the city’s already congested streets.

According to a Revel spokesman, they were still able to get their applications approved anyway because they started the process back in the spring, months before the new regulations came into effect. 

The company was unsure whether their original application would still go through under the new regulations, according to a spokesman, but they were glad to see the TLC work with them, according to the spokesman. 

The TLC press office did not immediately respond for comment. 

In the lead-up to the June 22 vote to close the exemption, Revel execs and drivers kicked up stink, rallying outside City Hall and accusing officials of “illegally” blocking the company’s new venture.

The company spokesman said they still disagreed with the TLC’s decision to end the exemption, which was aimed at encouraging drivers to move away from fossil fuels. 

CEO Reig said the company will work with regulators on any future potential expansion.

“From the beginning, we’ve said we were going to launch with a fleet of 50 cars. Any future expansion will be the product of working with our regulators, including the TLC – Revel always has, and always will, operate legally and in partnership with our cities,” he said.

Revel prides itself on hiring drivers as employees with guaranteed wages and access to health benefits, rather than gig workers, as is common with other rideshare operations like Uber and Lyft.

All 50 Teslas, coming in at between $48,000-$55,000 apiece, are owned by Revel, not the drivers, and are customized to have more legroom and allow riders to adjust temperatures and music via a touchscreen.

To juice up its fleet, the company will use its new charging ‘superhub’ at the old Pfizer plant in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which opened with a glowing endorsement from President Joe Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the end of June.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.

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