Why NYC’s Yellow cabs took so long to go green

For the city, hybrid taxis mean cleaner urban air, less energy consumption, and lower costs. So why didn't the shift happen sooner? Consider the simple economic savings this move promises. The city estimates the plan will save 22 million gallons of gas -– and related emissions -– in the first year alone. For a hack driver making the switch from a 10-mpg Crown Victoria to a 30-mpg hybrid, daily savings in fuel costs could hit over $100 on a 12-hour shift, particularly with gas going for $3.50 or more at city stations. Those savings go straight into drivers’ pockets and lower the pressure to increase taxi fares down the road.

For New York City’s fleet of iconic yellow cabs, gas guzzlers are out and gas-electric hybrids are in. The switchover of the city’s 13,000 fleet of taxis is expected to take four years, with new hybrid models replacing older vehicles (a mix of mostly Ford Crown Victoria sedans, along with some SUVs and minivans) as they are retired. Come 2012, when the switch is completed, the city expects to have “the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis on the planet.” The announcement doesn’t specify hybrids, but instead details emission and mileage standards — topping out at 30 mpg — that only hybrids can meet, for now at least. Some 375 hybrids already prowl city streets, as part of a trial program. This green fleet is made up mostly of Ford Escape Hybrids, but also includes Toyota Priuses and Highlander Hybrids plus a handful of Lexus 400h’s, with new hybrids to join the menagerie as they hit the market.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.