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NYC mayor says city's yellow cab fleet will be entirely hybrid within five years

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

NEW YORK -- Every yellow cab in the city will be a fuel-efficient hybrid by 2012, and stricter emissions and gas mileage standards for taxis will be phased in starting next year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

There are now 375 hybrid vehicles among the 13,000 taxis rolling on New York City streets. Under Bloomberg's plan, that number will increase to 1,000 by October 2008 and will grow by about 20 percent each year until 2012.

"There's an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City," Bloomberg said. "These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes.

"This does a lot less. It's a lot better for all of us," he said of the hybrid plan.

Hybrid vehicles run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, emitting less exhaust and achieving higher gas mileage. Hybrid models tested include the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the Lexus RX 400h and the Ford Escape.

The standard yellow cab vehicle, the Ford Crown Victoria, gets 14 miles per gallon. In contrast, the Ford Escape taxis get 36 miles per gallon.

Automakers said hybrids are uniquely well-suited to be taxis. Many of them run solely on battery power while stopped or at low speeds, so they don't cough exhaust while navigating through city traffic.

At higher speeds, the gas-powered drive system kicks in and the two work together.

Ford spokesman Jim Cain said the company was not daunted by the announcement that the Crown Victoria would be phased out of the taxi fleet.

"The goals are laudable and it's up to us to work with the city and the taxi agency to make sure we're part of the solution," he said.

In addition to making the yellow cab brigade entirely green within five years, the city will require all new vehicles entering the fleet after October 2008 to achieve a minimum of 25 miles per gallon. A year later, all new vehicles must get 30 miles per gallon and be hybrid.

Bloomberg made the announcement on NBC's "Today" show.

Hybrid vehicles are typically more expensive, but the city said the increase in fuel efficiency will save taxi operators more than $10,000 per year. Yahoo Inc. said it would donate 10 hybrid Ford Escapes for the city's effort.

Shifting the taxi fleet to hybrids is part of Bloomberg's wider sustainability plan for the city, which includes a goal of a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Part of the plan could include congestion pricing for drivers entering some of the busiest parts of Manhattan.

Turning over the taxi fleet by 2012 is not an impossible goal. The life of a New York City taxi is typically about three to five years; the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission requires all vehicles to be retired within a certain time frame.

City officials said the new standards, when fully implemented, are expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 200,000 metric tons per year. That is still a tiny fraction of the city's overall emissions; a recent city study found that New York City produced a net emission of 58.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2005.

The government does not own the city's yellow cabs, but sells licenses to individual drivers and operators, who must purchase their own vehicles that meet the specifications of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The agency serves as the regulating and licensing authority for all vehicles per hire in the city.

Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an advocacy trade group, applauded the city's effort to go green.

"In the short term, they're going to have to spend more money, but in the long run they will save money," he said. "We support getting more hybrids on the road."


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