New York City: No More Hybrid Taxis

Last year, Nissan won the competition to make New York City’s new taxis, which will replace the iconic Yellow Cabs starting next year.

At the time, we were disappointed that Nissan’s taxis would only get 25 miles per gallon (mpg) (although that’s double what current yellow cabs get). Now we’re even more disappointed that phasing in the taxis next year means phasing out the city’s 6000 hybrids.

Hybrid cars are now used for almost half of NYC’s taxi fleet, but the new plan – which is expected to pass – would require that only Nissan’s van be used.

This Thursday, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will vote on whether Nissan’s "Taxi of Tomorrow" is the only allowable cab – the fleet would be uniform over the next three years.

The NY Taxi Association, which represents medallion owners, is against the plan – they want to keep driving hybrids and their choices open. Although there are lots of Priuses, the Ford Escape is most commonly used, and gets 34 mpg.

Although he admits Nissan’s cab use more gas, "On the plus side, it’s much roomier, it’s safer for the passenger because the partition is built in and crash-tested. It has a host of other amenities. Since it is so much more fuel efficient than the Crown Victoria and within striking distance of the Escape, we thought that’s an acceptable trade-off," TLC Chair David Yassky told the Wall St. Journal. 

NYC Taxi

Mayor Bloomberg’s goal was to convert entirely to hybrids by this year, but medallion owners won a court case against it, saying it limited their choice. Now, their choice is being limited again, but in the opposite direction. 

"Once again, those who benefit the most from the yellow taxi monopoly system are resisting change," a spokesperson for  Bloomberg told the Wall St. Journal. "That’s no surprise, since they have only one concern: increasing profits. The mayor’s concern is delivering the safest, most comfortable and most convenient taxi ever."

City officials say converting to a single model has given them unprecedented leverage on the details of the vehicle, from seat fabric to where meters are placed.

World’s Vehicles Could Use 50% Less Gas

Meanwhile, although conventional vehicles will dominate the market until 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says much of the world is on track to cut vehicle fuel consumption half by then.

The transport sector is expected to account for all future growth of oil use – it absorbs about 20% now.

Technologies to achieve this cut are available and cost-effective, all that’s missing are uniformly strong policies, such as education and strong fuel economy standards, they say.  Although the US, EU and China are moving forward on this front, most emerging economies aren’t.

Fuel economy gains are key to keeping the world’s average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, even as hybrid and electric sales rise, IEA says.

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