Taxi companies in the GTA are speaking out against City Hall’s intention to mandate zero-emissions taxicabs and ride shares by 2031, a move one entrepreneur says will “destroy a lot of drivers’ livelihoods.”

On Sept. 21, the Toronto City Council debated a proposal that would require most vehicles-for-hire to use zero-emissions vehicles by 2031, with a one-year grace period implemented for drivers phasing out hybrid vehicles.

The policy would bring with it an extended network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the city, as well as one-time grants for some taxi companies to replace their fleets with approved vehicles.

Abdul Mohamoud, CEO of Co-op Cabs, a Toronto-based taxi company, says that while this legislation may “sound great,” it has the potential “to kill a lot of jobs.”

“Most drivers don’t have private driveways or charging facilities in their homes,” he said in an interview. “You can’t retrofit these buildings – the physical infrastructure isn’t there, and won’t be added to private property without a significant cost. The economics don’t work.”

Mohamoud believes the policy is especially likely to hurt drivers working for rideshare companies like Uber, which employs over 100,000 drivers across the country. Uber drivers in the Greater Toronto Area – specifically Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, and Brampton – are already required to drive a vehicle less than seven years old, a restriction which limits low-income drivers from earning money on the app. The addition of a zero-emissions qualifier – which adds a higher sticker price for a new car – may shut out more would-be drivers from Toronto’s large gig economy.

“People cannot afford electric vehicles,” Mahamoud said. “The city can’t implement this without addressing the infrastructure, and even then, it’s a long shot. This is going to drive operators and drivers out of the business.”

Kristine Hubbard, operations manager of Beck Taxi, agrees.

“We explicitly shared our thoughts on this with the city,” she said in an interview.

According to Hubbard, the insurance needed for an electric vehicle to operate as a taxi will be nearly impossible to attain for an entire city's fleet applying simultaneously. The gap in insurance, she says, can be attributed to the relatively new enterprise of electric cars, which require a specialist for even minor repairs and upkeep.

“If thousands of Ubers and taxis all have to upgrade at the same time, there’s a waiting list that can be over two years,” she added. “It’s a disappointing policy with a horrible potential impact.”