New York City locks in its hybrids

Last year, when gasoline was in the then unheard of range of $3 per gallon, the city of New York had the good sense to mandate that it’s taxi fleet switch from gas guzzling rear drive sedans and SUVs to high mileage vehicles. Now with gas up in the $4 range, the city faces the same problem a growing number of consumers face: finding a green car is getting harder and harder. The WSJ has a telling look at the market for used econoboxes, those stripped down, anti-luxe commuters that populate used car lots. We’re not talking advanced hybrids here, just very light, small-engine vehicles that get over 30 mpg. Their resale value has begun to rise in recent months, with resale values for 3 yr old Civics, Minis, and Coopers holding in the realm of 80% of new costs. Typically, says the journal, 3-yr-old cars sell for about half of their new price.

Back in New York, facing the prospects of a hybrid shortage, the city has taken steps to make sure it can buy the thousands of hybrids it will need to upgrade it’s fleet. The hybrid switchover was met with ambivalence by the taxi industry, but is now looking like a home run. Taxi drivers have to eat rising gas costs since fares rise but once a year. Those who drive high-mileage cars already are saving an estimated $6,500, on average, in fuel costs. Plenty, it would seem, to cover the higher upfront cost of almost any hybrid.

From city hall today, a snippet of today’s announcement

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine (TLC) Commission Chairman Matthew W. Daus today announced that three major automobile manufacturers have committed to delivering 300 hybrid vehicles per month exclusively for use in the New York City yellow taxi fleet. This exceeds the 210 vehicles per month that TLC estimates are needed to meet new fuel efficiency standards imposed by the City and are above and beyond those already available on the retail market. Nissan North America, Inc. has committed to the availability of up to 200 Nissan Altima hybrids per month, General Motors has committed to the availability of 50 Chevrolet Malibu hybrids per month, and The Ford Motor Company has committed to the availability of 50 Ford Escape hybrids per month, and is seeking to guarantee more.

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