By Ben Fractenberg
SOHO — One of the three finalists for the city's Taxi of Tomorrow contest tried to edge out the competition Wednesday.
Turkish company Karsan unveiled a model of its taxi at the Classic Car Club on Hudson Street in SoHo. The car looked more like a futuristic minivan than a traditional taxi, with a particularly spacious interior, which designers said was big enough to fit a wheelchair and four passengers.
"This taxi is all about comfort, access, sustainability and durability," said William Wachtel, president of KarsanUSA. "The Karsan V1 has been specifically designed and engineered to be a New York City taxi. It will be the first purpose-designed taxi in New York since the beloved Checker, and has specific features to meet the needs of passengers, the disabled, drivers and taxi owners."
The cab is outfitted with wheelchair accessible ramps which extend from both rear passenger side doors. There is no front passenger seat, which is instead used for extra luggage storage space.
"It would make New York one of the most accessible cities in the world," said Jan Nahum, Karsan executive director.
One of the vehicles lead designers, Tolga Kaan Dogancioglu, said their model was a brand new design made specifically to be a cab, as opposed to the other finalists, Nisan and Ford, which he said had remodeled already-existing vehicles.
"It’s iconic," said Dogancioglu, who helped manage the design team. "It’s a dedicated vehicle."
The vehicle is also unique in that it would have a rear micro-hybrid engine, according to Dogancioglu. The design would allow the cab to store the energy generated while breaking and would shut off the engine while standing in traffic.
Dogancioglu said he couldn’t give specifics on gas millage while the competition was going on, but said they expected the cab to run within the 20-30 miles-per-gallon range.
The designers would also not get specific about the cost of the vehicles, although they said they would be competitive with current cab models.
When asked if the Karsan model would create jobs for Americans, Dogancioglu said while the bulk of production, at least initially, would be done in Turkey, some parts would be produced in the U.S. He said service and distribution here would also create jobs.
Karsan was founded in 1966 and produces brands for Peugeot, Citroen and Renault Trucks.
A source said officials are still evaluating the finalists and do not expect to announce a winner for at least a couple months.