Brian West feels the reaction to his new taxi service has been, well ... electrifying.

His business has amped up over the past couple of weeks. He's adding a fourth car to his Rover Taxi Service fleet of electric vehicles that have been transporting passengers to and from locations around the McAlester area.

"We started with two and promptly needed a third one," West said.

Associate Brian Wilson and another driver left McAlester to pick up the newest electric vehicle for West's Rover Taxi Service. West said the new taxi business has grown so fast he needed the fourth vehicle because it has a longer range for transporting passengers.

"The car we're getting has a 200-mile range," West said of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt RV he's added to the fleet. His other Rover Taxi Service vehicles have a range of from 65-to-75 miles before needing another charge, he said.

Has there been a huge demand from passengers to travel beyond the 65-to-75 mile range?

"We have taken people to Hartshorne and Kiowa," West said, presenting a couple of examples.

West operates Rover Taxi out of his other business, OK Lawn and Pest Control at 426 S. Main St.

Although two new DC Fast Chargers were recently installed at the site by Francis Solar to provide a quicker charge-up procedure for electric vehicles, West said there was a technical issue with electrical power at the site, so both of the DC Fast Chargers are temporarily "down" until the problem is determined and the issue solved.

In the meantime, West has installed a new charging system on his own. It doesn't charge up an electric vehicle as swiftly as the two DC Fast Chargers will when they're up and running — but it is faster than the other working charger at the site.

"We bought our own 25-watt charger," West said. "We're upgrading amps from 200 to 400 amps," West said. He expects the two DC Fast Chargers will soon be up and functioning.

That's in addition to the regular slow charger that was already in place at the site. With 7.2 kilowatts, it take about six hours to charge up an electric car, he said.

While West owns the Rover Taxi Service, it's managed by Dustin Parker. The taxi service is not available 24 hours a day, but does operate throughout the day and into the night.

"We are open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday," Wilson said. On Sundays,Rover taxi Service is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. It can be reached by phoning 918-420-9271, during the times when the service is open and operating.

During a recent morning, both Wilson and driver Shelley Bargas were awaiting phone calls to pick up their next passengers. West said he has about 10 drivers who cover different shifts on a given day or night.

"We're trying to give everybody a day off," West said.

What about rates? West said they are comparable, when the company's expenses are covered.

"I provide every employee the car, insurance and fuel," he said.

Referring to the need for longer range cars, West noted that there is a need for more charging stations in other cities,

"An electric car is like flying an airplane," he said. "You have to make sure you have enough 'gas' to reach your destination.

All of the taxis have cameras installed.

"We want to make sure our customers and our employees are safe," West said.

A number of customers must be pleased with the service provided; they've called back for more, said Parker, manager of the taxi service.

"We've got regulars who call us multiple times a day," Parker said.

Rover Taxi tries to provide a service for those who are without their own vehicles — either for the short-term or the long-term — by offering discounted "Work Ride" tickets to local residents for transportation to and from their places of employment.

"We sell 10 for $50," West said. "That will get you to and from work five days a week." 

Rover Taxi also offers free rides home in the McAlester area for those who are undergoing treatment at the McAlester Cancer Center. Normally, people undergoing treatment can get a ride to the center because they are dropped off by family or friends, but may need a ride once the treatment session ends, he said.

Sometimes, someone who is undergoing treatment may have a vehicle parked at the hospital, but may not feel up to driving home after the treatment ends, he said.

"We also have a roll of tickets we have given to people at the ER," West said, referring to the hospital's emergency department. Following a transport to the hospital's emergency facility, an individual may find himself or herself without a ride home, West noted.

While West expanded from three cars to four sooner than he planned for the Rover Taxi Service, what does he expect next?

"We'll have four cars now, he noted. "I envision by this time next year we'll have eight."

Is West shocked and how quickly his electric car taxi company business has accelerated?

"The growth of the company is about twice what I expected," he said.

"I didn't start this to make money," West said. "The focus is to do it right.

"Take care of your vehicles; take care of your employees and your customers, and everything else will fall into place."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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