Biden admin praises Revel after NYC snubs its Tesla taxi plans

The Biden administration on Tuesday signaled support for Brooklyn startup Revel just days after the e-transportation company was snubbed by New York City regulators.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who was nominated by Biden and confirmed in February, donned a pair of Revel-branded sunglasses in Bed-Stuy on Tuesday as she heaped praise on the electric transportation company.

“What you are doing to create jobs here, what you are doing to heal the planet here, is so important,” Granholm said of Revel before cutting a ribbon to open the company’s massive electric vehicle charging hub.

Granholm made the comments less than a week after the the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission closed the door on an exemption it’s had on the books since 2019 to issue new for-hire licenses to electric vehicles. The move has riled Revel, which just in April announced plans to launch a fleet of 50 all-electric ride-hail cars by May in an effort to compete with Uber.

“I know the city is visionary when it comes to clean electricity and I hope that they’re able to resolve it,” Granholm said in reference to the battle between New York’s taxi regulator and Uber.

In response to a question about the battle between the TLC and Revel, Granholm said: “I know the city is visionary when it comes to clean electricity and I hope that they’re able to resolve it.”

“An electric ride-share service would be fantastic and in fact all electric fleets — whether it is a taxi fleet or a ride-share fleet — that’s exactly what we want to head in the direction of.” 

As part of its broader infrastructure push, the Biden administration wants to spend $15 billion on building electric vehicle charging stations across the country. Revel’s Brooklyn charging hub is an example of what the administration wants to see across the country, Granholm said. 

Known for its ubiquitous blue electric shared scooters, Revel built the charging hub where Granholm spoke in part to power its planned fleet of 50 Tesla Model Y taxis.

The hub boasts 25 fast chargers that can support all brands of electric vehicles, making it the largest in the Americas that is open to the public, according to Revel, which will charge a fee for people who use the hub to charge their vehicles.

But the TLC squashed Revel’s e-hail plans on June 22 when it voted five-to-one vote to close the electric car loophole, citing congestion on NYC roads.  

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who was nominated by Biden and confirmed in February, donned a pair of Revel-branded sunglasses and applauded the company in Bed-Stuy on Tuesday.

Revel has slammed the vote — plans for which were hinted at days after Revel’s planned fleet announcement in April — as a thinly veiled attempt to protect existing ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft.

The transportation agency has said Revel can still launch its electric fleet if it buys 50 cars with existing licenses and swaps them out for the Teslas. Revel has blasted that solution as “the very definition of limiting market competition.” 

Speaking alongside Granholm, Revel CEO Frank Reig insisted that the company planned to launch its Tesla taxi service “a little bit later this summer” but declined to provide an exact date. 

Revel CEO Frank Reig
Revel CEO Frank Reig (left) said the company’s Tesla taxi service would launch later this summer.

“We continue to work with the TLC and we’re very confident we’re going to get on the road soon,” Reig told reporters. “Nothing has changed in terms of our plan.” 

The TLC has denied its vote last week was aimed at protecting Uber and Lyft — or at stifling the upstart electric vehicle company, which has been slowing the expansion of its “moped-share” program following a string of crashes last year.

“The public meeting/vote was neither about electric vehicles nor about any particular company nor about car models,” according to an emailed statement by TLC Commissioner and Chair Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk.

Revel’s Brooklyn charging hub
Revel’s Brooklyn charging hub, which contains 25 fast chargers, is an example of what the Biden administration wants to see across the country, the Secretary of Energy said.

“Rather, the public meeting was about vehicle licenses, which are presently capped since the market is saturated and distressed,” Jarmoszuk said. “Those with interests for new/additional vehicle licenses have attempted to establish a narrative about my not supporting EVs because they want new/additional vehicles licenses.” 

Nonetheless, the taxi chief also applauded Revel on the opening of its charging hub, saying, “The TLC congratulates Revel on their infrastructure launch today and we look forward to working together with all our licensees, including Revel, as we partner as an industry to electrify the NYC TLC vehicle fleet.”

Metro | New York Post

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