Don Alexander, the owner and General Manager of Euro Taxi, started the Santa Monica cab company in October 2005 and has grown from a brand new start-up to 4,000 calls per month. He has also gone from conventionally fueled cars to “the first, but not the only” Santa Monica taxi operator to run its vehicles on biodiesel, he says.
The Euro Taxi fleet of 18 vehicles includes 13 Mercedes Benz sedans and five Chevrolet vans with greater passenger and luggage capacity; of the 13 Mercedes, five run on biodiesel and the balance run on gasoline.
No mechanical modification is required to convert a diesel engine to biodiesel, Alexander says, but you do have to change the filters more frequently until the engine gets used to the new fuel, which is made from lower grade vegetable oil and deep-fry grease which is drained, cleaned and treated – “take out some of the fat and add oxygen and alcohol.”
The biodiesel has “no sulfur in the exhaust and 55 percent less carbon emissions than petroleum diesel,” Alexander explains. It’s “a little more expensive” and gets “similar mileage” as compared to petroleum diesel, but the bio-fuel is all made in the United States.
To fuel up the taxis with biodiesel, Alexander takes them to three USA stations, in Marina del Rey (Lincoln Boulevard and Mindanao Way), Brentwood (Barrington Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard) and Pacific Palisades (near Ralphs off Sunset Boulevard). But Santa Monica is working on it, he says, looking forward to a fueling station at Cloverfield Boulevard and Michigan Avenue, a location near the City Yards where Santa Monica has transitioned a majority of its hardest working heavy-duty vehicles and equipment to biodiesel.
Alexander says the regular customer base of Euro Taxi includes people going to LAX, seniors going to hospitals, doctors and grocery shopping, and production companies, law offices and hotels that he regularly serves. His cadre of “uniformed English-speaking drivers” are dispatched by a staff of four, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Euro Taxi is licensed by the City of Santa Monica only, so it only picks up passengers within the city limits, although it is authorized to take those passengers anywhere they want to go – LAX, downtown Los Angeles, Las Vegas. As to rates, Alexander says they are “competitive: not the cheapest, but not the most expensive.”
Before he founded Euro Taxi, Alexander was general manager of another Santa Monica cab operator, Taxi! Taxi!, where he grew the operation from 17 to 45 cars, he says. He started Euro Taxi with an investing partner, Mitch Stanisic, and the new business has been growing ever since. eurotaxism.com.