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EghtesadOnline: As per a scheme introduced by Tehran Municipality, 5,000 Toyota Camry electric hybrids were to join the capital’s taxi fleet. Given the economic problems visiting the country, the plan is on hold.

Hyundai and Toyota hybrids in small numbers joined the taxi fleet in recent years for premium transport at airports and hotels. Tehran Municipality introduced a plan in 2016 to add 5,000 Toyota Camry electric hybrids to the taxi fleet.

Much less polluting than gasoline-powered cars, electric hybrids could have significantly helped reduce air pollution, which blights many cities, the CEO of Iran Taxi Union, Morteza Zameni told Khabar Online news website.

He said when the scheme was introduced in 2016, the Camry electric hybrids could be purchased by the TM for 1.1 billion rials a piece. At the time the USD exchange rate was 40,000 rials and import tariffs were low, Financial Tribune reported.

In recent months the rial has taken a beating and lost more than 70% of its value. The greenback fetched 145,000 rials in Tehran on Saturday.

Due to volatility in the forex market, imported car prices have skyrocketed. Currently, second hand Camry electric hybrids go for 5.5 billion rials ($37,900) if at all available.

As the currency situation deteriorated and the new US sanctions came into effect in summer, the government banned the import of 1,339 items, including cars—categorized as non-essential goods with equivalents made inside the country.

Following US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May, the government started taking measures to deal with the looming sanctions, one of which was the ban on car imports.

Zameni is of the opinion that “even if the auto import ban is eased, the steep increase in imported car prices make Camry hybrids no longer feasible.”

He says the TM should look at other options like buying locally-made hybrids to improve the depleted taxi fleet.

Domestic companies produce several models of hybrid-CNG cars, including the Samand and Zotye Z300 sedan manufactured in collaboration with Chinese companies.


Worsening Air Quality

Tehran is notorious for its worsening air quality, crying for effective pollution mitigation efforts. Besides the introduction of stringent traffic schemes and mandatory technical inspections for all motor vehicles, phasing out dilapidated taxis and renovating the fleet with hybrid electric cabs is seen as an effective way to improve the quality of life in the bustling metropolis.

A major study carried out by the World Bank showed that Iran is losing a large part of its gross domestic product to air pollution.

Those costs are mainly driven by lost productivity, since schools and factories are shut down on bad air days to avoid the dangerous health effects of breathing the dense, toxic air. This happens more frequently when the mercury dips and toxic emissions blanket the city, a phenomenon known as temperature inversion.

As the fourth leading cause of premature deaths worldwide, toxic air leads to heart disease and stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infections.

According to the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, during the fiscal that ended in March, close to 12,000 pollution-related deaths were recorded in Iran with  one-third of the fatalities in Tehran alone.

Highlight:  After the introduction of stringent traffic rules, restricted zones and mandatory technical inspections for all motor vehicles, phasing out dilapidated taxis and bringing in hybrid electric cabs is seen as an effective way to improve air quality in the bustling metropolis.


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