Tank Taxi Takes On Lyft And Uber

An Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) is parked on a sidewalk in Washington, DC, on July 4, 2019. – … [+] Tanks in the heart of Washington, fighter jets screaming overhead, and a speech from the Lincoln Memorial: President Donald Trump has promised the “show of a lifetime” Thursday as he turns the Fourth of July into a personal primetime extravaganza. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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Look out Lyft and Uber, a British hobbyist turned entrepreneur is offering customers rides in his ‘tank taxi.’ And like the rideshare model, he drives his own vehicle although his operating costs for his 1967 armored vehicle are much higher.

Merlin Batchelor of Norwich picked up his 15-ton surplus ‘tank’ the old-fashioned way—he bought it over the Internet. He admits his $35,000 purchase isn’t actually a tank, but an APC or armored personnel carrier. The city apparently allows tracked vehicles to roam its streets, and friends and acquaintances started begging for rides, although passers-by described it as “very loud and very slow.” When strangers asked Batchelor to ferry them to proms, a new side hustle was born.

Batchelor spray-painted the APC with purple flowers and put a flat-screen TV in easy view of the passengers. Event planners take note—he’ll chauffeur a group ride to a wedding or even a funeral in the ‘tank taxi.’  Up to 9 people can travel with some protection from potential small-arms fire. But they won’t be moving very fast, as the APC can only be driven at up to 20mph.

Batchelor charges $830 for the first hour and $275 per additional hour. He plans to break out of the wedding and funeral grind and is working on getting a permit for additional events like birthday parties and proms.

One such wedding ride was done for his neighbors. As the bride told CBS News “When your neighbor buys a tank and your other half spends most of his time with that tank, it’s inevitable that you’re going to your wedding in a tank.”

SEVASTOPOL, RUSSIA – JULY 20, 2017: An armoured taxi cab seen at a parking lot near the Artillery … [+] Bay. Vladimir Smirnov/TASS (Photo by Vladimir SmirnovTASS via Getty Images)

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Batchelor is not the first to offer armored taxi service. In St. Petersburg, Russia, surplus ICRMs – infantry combat reconnaissance machines—served as taxis starting in 2014. The wheeled vehicles featured giant wheels, centimeter-thick armor said to stop a machine gun bullet and a large caliber (but fake) automatic weapon in a turret. No wonder they were known as ‘safe taxis.’

The service seemed to be designed for physically-fit passengers, who had to climb up a ladder to enter the vehicle through a hatch on top side of the vehicle. Once inside, they took their places on real (uncomfortable) military vehicle seating. Speaking of uncomfortable the vehicle lacks such creature comforts as heat, although some warmth was provided by the warm fumes from the engine.

Still, the seven-ton ICRM can ford rivers and has a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour. And at one point they were plentiful on the Internet starting at $8,600 for a battered ICRM up to $25,000 for a mint condition model. And for its major customer group—bachelor and birthday parties—the price was right at $90 an hour in 2015.

Still, the operator of the service complained about costs. “The car requires lots of fuel – at least 40 liters for 100 kilometers. A special driving license is needed to operate it and it’s not easy to drive,” complained company representative Yana Nezhintseva.

So unless one of their vehicles was crunched underfoot, rideshare giants like Lyft and Uber had little to fear from the ‘safe taxi.’ “This is why is why it’s difficult to imagine the car as being more than a luxury or novelty item,” sniffed Nezhintseva.

STARYCHI, LVIVSKA, UKRAINE – 2021/09/28: Ukrainian soldiers ride on an APC during the international … [+] military exercises “Rapid Trident – 2021”. On the territory of the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security of the National Academy of Land Forces named after Hetman Petro Sahaidachny, Ukrainian-American command and staff exercises involving troops “Rapid Trident – 2021” are taking place, they started on 20th Sept and will last until 1st Oct 2021. Soldiers from 15 countries take part in the exercises (Ukraine, USA, Germany, Bulgaria, Georgia, Italy, Poland, Romania, Great Britain and others). In total, about 6,000 servicemen are involved in the exercises. (Photo by Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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