Plan for Hybrid Taxi Fleet Moves Forward
Updated, 11:40 p.m. | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to convert New York City’s entire fleet of yellow taxicabs into one that entirely comprises vehicles that run on a hybrid of electricity and gasoline took a step forward Wednesday, when his administration announced an agreement among three major automobile manufacturers to produce at least 300 of the hybrid vehicles a month for use as cabs — more than the 210 per month that the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission had estimated was needed to meet legal deadlines.
The plan for an all-hybrid was announced last May, and in December, the commission unanimously approved new regulations that will require all new taxicabs, starting in October, to achieve a fuel-efficiency rating of 25 miles per gallon in the city. By October 2009, the requirement will be raised further, to 30 miles per gallon. The regulations are intended to ensure that by 2012 the entire taxi fleet will consist of hybrid vehicles or other “clean vehicles” that are far more energy efficient than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Under the deal announced today, Nissan North America will produce 200 Nissan Altima hybrids per month, General Motors will produce 50 Chevrolet Malibu hybrids per month, and the Ford Motor Company will produce of 50 Ford Escape hybrids per month — all for exclusive use as New York City taxicabs, “While there are already hybrid vehicles available on the retail market, we want to ensure there is more than enough supply to meet the demand for hybrid taxis created by our new PlaNYC mileage rules,” said the mayor, referring to his plan to improve the city’s environmental standards by 2030.
The commission’s chairman, Matthew W. Daus, said there were already 1,300 hybrid taxicabs in use. They save drivers an average of around $6,500 a year and have better rates of passing inspections, Mr. Daus said.
While the plan for a hybrid fleet has drawn applause from environmentalists, it has left some drivers frustrated. Most individual owner-operators are unwilling to replace their vehicles before the five-year age limit. Some drivers have argued that they are stuck with traditional vehicles until the five years are up, and that in the meantime, the Taxi and Limousine Commission should impose a fuel surcharge on fares to compensate for record-high gasoline prices, which have lowered drivers’ salaries. So far the commission has declined to impose such a surcharge, noting that fares have already increased twice since 2004.