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New York Taxis Will Go Hybrid 322

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-medallion? dept.
Jason Siegel writes "The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has approved the Clean Air Taxicabs Pilot Program Act, paving way for a hybrid car to be approved for NY taxi service by this fall. Soon, a large portion of New York's yellow cars will also be "green." According to the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST) poll, seven out of ten of the state's citizens support a switch to hybrids." New York might also reduce car pollution by loosening the rules for running a taxi, in order to reduce the need for private cars.
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New York Taxis Will Go Hybrid

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  • by kensavage (898559) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:51PM (#13022400) Homepage
    Now if they can only clean out the inside of the cars too.
  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:53PM (#13022404)
    Part of the fun of riding in taxis is being able to ride in a Police Interceptor. Nothing like going 0-60 in 5s while slipping into some godawful tight opening on the left lane on Fifth Avenue.

    But this should be good. Hybrid vehicles really shine in urban congested traffic anyways (lots of stops and crawls)
    • Rest assured that Ford will probably come out with a Crown Vic Hybrid if this becomes a popular idea. Or more likely, a Five Hundred Hybrid, since they appear to be wanting to get all their large cars on the Volvo platform.
  • by shut_up_man (450725) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:54PM (#13022414) Homepage
    I've seen quite a few shiny new Prius [toyota.com] taxis here in Vancouver with Yellow Cabs. I had a quick chat to one of the drivers and he said he didn't really care about the environment, it's that hybrids cost less to run when petrol gets expensive.
    • by pHatidic (163975) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @05:16PM (#13022542)
      Our family owns a first generation Prius, and a couple weeks ago we ordered a second generation one to replace it (better crash test rating). It costs me less than 20 bucks to fill up the tank, whereas a comparable volvo would cost 45 bucks. When our battery eventually died after three years, Toyota replaced it for free under their good will program. When you combine the 50% gas savings with the tax rebate you get for buying it, this thing has saved us several thousand dollars.
      • Gas runs at $2.50/gal here. I have a 2001 Prius and it takes $25-26 to fill with about 9-10 gallons(?) of 87 unleaded. (The tank holds 11.9 gal.) For that $26 I get about 450 miles.

        The display shows a running histogram of mileage. Generally you get 25 mpg during the first five minutes after a cold start. After that, 50 mpg and above is typical. (On the highway. In the city the car is really miserly with fuel- over 60 mpg.)

        There was a recall on the batteries recently, because of some problem with leakage.
      • Heh, similar to the reason my dad bought an Insight.

        at 60-70 mpg (life avg 58 mpg, mostly city), the car nearly "paid for it's own insurance in gas savings"

        Grump
      • "When our battery eventually died after three years, Toyota replaced it for free under their good will program. "
        But what happens when the good will runs out? New batteries are pretty expensive.
        A gas civic gets 38 hiway and a VW jetta TDI gets 48. Where I am there is just not that much stop and go driving. In a city with lots of stop and go a Hybrid may be the best option but the battery costs make small pure gas and diesels a good option for a lot of locations.
        • It's not a good will program, it's a warranty. The main Prius battery pack is covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles in the US. Or, in California or a few other states that use California emissions laws (CA, MA, ME, VT, NY) the hybrid battery is further covered by the California Emission Control Warranty out to 10 years or 150,000 miles.
        • But what happens when the good will runs out? New batteries are pretty expensive.

          I worry about this, as well; for cars that yuppies will flip after two years, I guess it's not a problem (for the original buyer), but since these batteries will undoubtedly be very expensive to replace after any warrantees are up, I could see Prius and other hybrids being junked *far* earlier than a typical car, which could in the end be *worse* for the environment. (Rather like how many otherwise perfectly servicable lap
          • Well if the battery costs 2,000 dollars when installed by the dealer then the value of the car would have to be less than that to be not worth replacing. However I am willing to bet that you can order the battery for half the price and install it yourself. Or alternatively a lot of people will be totaling their Prius's, like any other car, so you can maybe salvage a functional battery for cheap from an otherwise dead car.
            • Well, if the battery begins to wear-out, it will just mean that the internal combustion engine will be used more to compensate and keep things running.

              The newer THS-II hybrid system that is in the 2004 and newer Prius models makes use of a redesigned battery pack that's far superior to the original (2003 and older) Prius systems. It should last for the life of the car according to Toyota.

              I have absolutely no concerns about the battery pack wearing out in mine.

              N.
          • The first Prius in cab service in Vancouver lived to 200,000 miles on the original battery. At that point Toyota bought it back for a teardown.

            Prius owners have been watching for any indications of actual battery life. So far the replacements have been caused by accident damage and charging system malfunction. If the poster above could say more about what happened?

            BTW always ask "which battery?". The 12V battery that runs the accessories and boots the high-voltage system seems to keel over with at least n
      • by drew (2081) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @07:49PM (#13023341) Homepage
        When my wife and I were looking to get a new car, we wanted to get a Prius, but the 2004's hadn't even been out for a few months yet, and every dealer we called told us there was a 6 month to a year waiting list.

        So we bought a Corolla instead. It costs virtually the same to fill up the tank, it gets close to the same highway gas mileage (in fact it probably would get the same if it had the same low rolling resistance tires) and cost it us about $5,000 less than a comparably equipped Prius (minus sunroof) even if we could get our hands on one. And we'll never have to worry about replacing the batteries.

        Also, the tax rebate is rapidly going down towards zero. And it's not a rebate, only a deduction. A lot of people got away with claiming the credit because the ruling was poorly worded early on, but in more recent years tax forms they added a line specifically stating that hybrid vehicles do not quilify for the tax credit.

        Our Corolla is approaching 20,000 miles now, and I did the math a little while back and figured out that we would still be a very long way from making back the difference in price between the two cars in fuel savings. Of course, the amount of city driving we do is virtually negligible as neither my wife or I drive to work most days.

        For something like a New York taxi cab, I think a hybrid car makes a lot of sense (although if New York cabbies drive anything like Chicago cabbies, I don't think that any available hybrid is going to have nearly enough power to meet the demands of the job), but I suspect very few ordinary drivers put on enough city miles to really save a lot of money by getting a Prius if you compare it to an equivalent non-hybrid vehicle.
        • And it's not a rebate, only a deduction.

          Oops. Strike that. I didn't notice which city you were talking about until after I posted. I have no idea what the tax rules regarding hybrid vehicles are in Canada- I only know that I've heard enough people here in the U.S. talk about getting a tax credit for buying an alternative fuel vehicle that it's become almost a habit of pointing out to them that hybrids don't qualify as an alternative fuel vehicle.
    • This is especially true as taxi drivers tend to be in the city more, where they can take advantage of the Prius' hybrid technology.
  • English? (Score:5, Funny)

    by NightWulf (672561) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:54PM (#13022416)
    Great so it's good to know the taxi will run cleaner as the cab drivers misinterprets "34th and Lexington" for "Take me to Staten Island, and let's go through Queens!"
  • Correction: (Score:5, Informative)

    by immel (699491) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:57PM (#13022438)
    The poll cited New York City residents only. Headline says NY state.

    This story is really only about one city. Too bad, too. The effect would be much more drastic on a state level. I wouldn't mind seeing green taxis in Albany or Rochester, either.
  • environment (Score:3, Funny)

    by mikejz84 (771717) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:58PM (#13022442)
    If they wanted to have cabs be better for the environment, they could start with having the drivers ware deodorant. Of course now I am excited about the smaller hybrids, that means the urine has smaller area to collect.
  • by Animaether (411575) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:58PM (#13022443) Journal
    Read about it over a week back at CNN; http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/07/01/green.t axis.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

    I found this to be particularly amusing :
    The problem, explained commission chairman Matthew W. Daus, is that people like their cabs big, and hybrids do not have the legroom and large trunks of the fleet's current workhorse, an extra-long version of the Ford Crown Victoria.
    • Toyota sells an SUV hybrid (the Highlander). More larger cars will be fitted with hybrid engines soon enough. I even read a rumor that a hybrid Hummer is in the works. I'm sure the target market for such a vehicle is very excited -- both of them.

      (I get my Prius on Wednesday! Woohoo!)
    • I found this to be particularly amusing ... "...people like their cabs big..."

      I live in the American Midwest, where we all drive our own cars everywhere. I don't take cabs much. When I do, I don't care how big they are, as long as they're clean and there.

      I'd say it's the cabbies, who have to ride in them all day, who want the things big. And the cab companies, who want their vehicles to last more than a week. Nah, the companies probably don't care.

      Maybe I'm wrong about all of it. Maybe most

      • Remember that this is New York City we're talking about. People take cabs far more frequently than pretty much anywhere else in the country. And there are lots of people (myself included) who don't own their own cars and get by on mass transit, cabs, and simple walking.
    • That's exactly the problem. Regardless of your own interpretation of American portliness or greed, the Ford Escape hybrids they plan on using have 10" less rear leg room than the long wheelbase Crown Vics. That's a HUGE difference.

      Cabs really ought to be larger station wagons, or even minivans. Hybrid or not, if I'm paying for a ride somewhere, I'd like to be able to get in and out easily, and be somewhat comfortable.

      If I was cramming in the back seat of a buddy's car for a 5 minute ride to the pub, I wo
    • The problem, explained commission chairman Matthew W. Daus, is that people like their cabs big, and hybrids do not have the legroom and large trunks of the fleet's current workhorse, an extra-long version of the Ford Crown Victoria.

      Right, but keep in mind we are talking about taxis... Which, in a city where many if not most of the population doesn't have a car, is the major (if not only) way to transport luggage to and from the airport, or a heavy item or even more than two sacks of groceries from the st
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:59PM (#13022449) Homepage Journal
    The actual story about NYC hybrid taxis [statesman.com] is in an Austin, TX paper.

    NYC could encourage this conversion to hybrids, which get better mileage, by offering rebates on other taxes on the hybrids, making them up by increasing them on the nonhybrids in taxi fleets. Maintaining the total tax collected, but distributed to favor the hybrids. Including the gas savings (50%) on gas, which is about $2.60:gallon in NYC these days (including other taxes), such a move could convert most of the 13K cabs clogging the streets with filth. Once a critical mass was achieved, including garage mechanics with mostly hybrid skills, the city could drop the regime.

    I'll be suggesting this approach to the NYC City Council "Technology" committee [nyccouncil.info] that I advise. It would help for New Yorkers (and others) to send constructive comments supporting this move to the committee Chair, Councilmember Brewer. Politicians, especially in the City, love to get public support for specific initiatives, especially when the ball is already rolling like it is with the TLC. [nyccouncil.info]
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @05:03PM (#13022467) Journal
    I propose two facts, that are incompatible.

    1) Taxi Meddalions (the license to operate a taxi) can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think I remember reading that one sold a few years ago for over $350,000.

    2) The people driving the taxis, they don't look like the wealthy type.

    They should deregulate all taxis. Maybe prices would fall if there was free competition. I know, on days I am short on money, I would like to slap a taxi sign on my car and drive down to the airport. A couple hours later, I would have enough money to go back to the bar.

    And I love the idea of green friendly cars. I think it is a step in the right direction. But what would be better than legislation is a green friendly car that gets 60+ mpg and has a sticker price of around $9,000. They would sell like hotcakes (which I think the Geo did for a while).

    Will we get a cheap green car? I think we will, but probably not from Ford, GM, or Chrysler. I bet it will come from a hyundi or some asian car. The most attractive thing about a green friendly car is the MPG it gets, which appeals to people who don't want to get raped at the gas pumps. Unfortunatly, those people are not the ones buying $50,000 SUV's, they are the ones in economy sized cars.

    Lower the price, and everyone will be buying them.

    • Actually, studies show that hybrid owners are much wealthier on average than the typical American. At the present, drivers don't necessarily save money with hybrids because of the premium for the technology. Those with the cash to spare often opt for a more environmentally-friendly solution that also reduces dependence on foreign oil. In the case of taxis, they're driven enough that breaking even is much more likely and the smog problem is also addressed. The issue about "room" in hybrids isn't really accur
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They should deregulate all taxis. Maybe prices would fall if there was free competition. I know, on days I am short on money, I would like to slap a taxi sign on my car and drive down to the airport. A couple hours later, I would have enough money to go back to the bar.

      Because nobody in NYC would ever abuse the free-taxi system by slapping a taxi sign on their car and picking up people to rape or otherwise victimize...
      • Are you serious? Because of the rare chance that someone might abuse a freedom, it should simple not exist? Wow.
      • Same could be said for locks on doors...
        People could abduct others and LOCK THEM IN!!!
        Imagine the possibilites for abuse!
        Lets regulate them!
      • A distinction needs to be made here between "non-discretionary" licensing (anyone who can meet some simple requirements qualifies) and fixed-allocation licensing. The number of NYC taxi medallions is a fixed number that hasn't increased since the 30's. Now everyone who has one has an equity interest in it, and therefore an interest in keeping the number of medallions down, perpetuating the cycle.

        Walter Williams [right-mind.us] often mentions the topic. Taxi regulation was a chapter in one of his books. (He is an adv

    • Mod parent up - seriously.. Taxi regimes in most cities are nothing more than welfare for those that already own licenses. There is no doubt that for-hire vehicles need to be regulated in some manner to avoid congestion, but there are much better ways of doing it than simply not allowing any more cabs, i.e.

      - legalize livery services (running a for-hire vehicle that picks up more than one customer)
      - charge *all* vehicle owners a congestion charge for driving in the city without limiting their # - if conge
  • A lot of other cities have public transportation running on propane, etc. Many international cities have seen a lot of cut back in pollution just by switching the public transportation to a more environment friendly energy source.
  • by VoidEngineer (633446) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @05:12PM (#13022521)
    For those of you who don't live in New York City, you may be interested to know that it can cost upwards of $750,000 to obtain a licence/emblem to operate a yellow-cab. The licenses are actually physical emblems which are welded to the hood of the cab, and if you don't have one of those emblems, you can't paint your cab yellow without it getting impounded. As I understand it, the emblems are minted in a manner similar to how a coin or a police badge is minted.

    Anyhow, the city has put a cap on the number of cabs which can operate in Manhattan (something like 200,000 cabs, I think), in part just by not minting and selling any new emblems. The law of supply-and-demand has, naturally, driven the cost of licenses up. Interestingly, a cab emblem is considered a piece of real-estate, as I understand, and can be placed in a will. Furthermore, they're considered suitable collateral for taking out a mortgage or loan similar to a home-equity loan. As I understand it, a motivated cabbie can earn a couple hundred thousand dollars a year. And, as you would expect in such a situation, there have formed many cab-companies which try to gobble up all the emblems that they can and hire imigrant drivers who earn a fraction of the profit they make, the rest going to the owners of the cab companies.

    Naturally, there are other limosine and cab services which operate in the city. But they don't get to paint their cars yellow.

    Anyhow, the moral of the story is that this is a huge decision, involving what I suspect is a billion dollar industry. I don't know exactly how big the new york yellow-cab industry is, but it's real big. And there's lots of money involved in this decision.

    • by Hungus (585181) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @05:37PM (#13022663) Journal
      You are off by a bit there .. As of 2004 emblems were selling for record amounts of 386,000 not quite the 750,000 you said and the number of taxicabs is set by law at 11,787, not quite the 200,000 upi claimed. No new taxi licenses have been issued for over half a century, making the taxicab medallion (which is merely an aluminum plaque bolted to the hood of each cab) the central symbol of the regulatory system.
    • Very interesting parent post.

      For those who are interested, commercial fishing licenses are similar (at least here on the east cost of Canada, probably elsewhere). They cost hundreds of thousands, people get mortgages to buy them so they can start the trade; they leave them to their hiers or sell them just as property, and there are a limited number given out.

      It really was eye opening to see the equity committment required by the fishing trade, on top of the sizable cost of the boat and equipment; it surp
    • Wow, that actually explains a lot. When I'm in NYC, I take a "limo" service. These are actual Lincolns operated by Chinese companies. I have a business card with numbers on it. I call service and get picked up in a Lincoln and driven very quickly to where I want to go. Surprisingly, the cost of all this is a fraction of the cost of hailing a cab. The only downside is that you have to call in advance to be picked up and you have to speak Chinese. Otherwise, it's much better than taxis. I always wonde
      • I've found car services in NYC (esp. the Lincoln company) to be very good. You can sit up front with the driver if you want, chat with them, etc. And a Lincoln towncar is a much more comfortable ride compared to a crown vic, esp over potholes.

        Tom
  • by bobcat7677 (561727) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:06PM (#13022842) Homepage
    So what's the big deal? I saw THOUSANDS of green taxis in Mexico City last time I was there. They all appeared to be made by volkswagen. And from the looks of them, they have had them there for many years!

    Good pictures here: http://www.manganese.com/presentations/2004_interi m_results/index_files/TextMostly/Slide13.html [manganese.com]

    I guess NY is just catching up with the rest of the world now???
  • I thought that hybrids were only efficient for highway driving, but not so great for stop-and-start traffic - and that "leadfoot" drivers also further reduce the efficiency (since the internal combustion engine is never shut down that way).

    Am I missing something? Or is NYC seeing hybrids as a panancea that won't work? Perhaps just having smaller cars is the answer. And perhaps pouring the money into further improvements for public transport make even more sense. How about tax breaks for folks _without_ car
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:17PM (#13022895)
      I thought that hybrids were only efficient for highway driving, but not so great for stop-and-start traffic

      Wrong. Hybrids use regenerative braking, to recover the energy of motion when you stop. That reduces the energy wasted by starting & stoping.

      But regerative braking makes no difference on a highway where you don't normally stop.

      Of course, hybrids tend to have small gas engines and be fuel efficient in other ways, which helps on the the highway. But the big advantage is for start & stop driving.

      and that "leadfoot" drivers also further reduce the efficiency (since the internal combustion engine is never shut down that way).

      Leadfoot drivers always get worse mileage, for any vehicle.

      "Short trips KILL gas mileage." Isn't that what taxis do all day? Make lots of short trips?

      Correct. But a hybrid will waste much less energy on a short trip than a regular car.
  • Why don't they just run diesel engines? 50+ MPG, excellent performance, low emissions, and non of the hassle with batteries or motors.
  • by LEX LETHAL (859141) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:35PM (#13022970)
    There should be national support and a firm deadline for the conversion of all public service vehicles to hybrid technology. Something along the lines of "all hybrid by 2008" .

    With respect to hybrid, there should be no reason why fleet vehicles that are either fully owned or subsidized by local governments are not already on a program with an equally agressive posture. Most of us in the USA already see some kind of eBus or hybrid vehicle presence in daily use for public rapid transport. They are still so novel that I take the time to notice and admire that this is one more step in the right direction. I'm not referring to the overhead "bumper car" style electric busses or trolleys, but the true free-drive busses used for inner city and rural public transport. What I'm proposing is the conversion of the entire fleet in every American city, and a deadline to back it up.

    I know the article is about taxicabs, but if owner-operators can make the leap in New York, why can't it work also on the national level as a mandate for the conversion of all public service vehicles? The sheer number of vehicles sold should be incentive enough for all auto manufacturers that have (or will have) a hybrid vehicle in their lineup to become involved in garnering support from appointed public officials and their constituents.

    How can a complete conversion of fleet vehicles, especially public service inner city or rural transportation, not make sense everywhere? People will still have their SUVs and QuadCabs as a means to get around for personal transport, and rightly so. However, when you choose to ride public transport - school busses included - you would do so on a vehicle that was part of a comprehensive national fuel conservation and toxic emissions reduction agenda.

  • by jonbrewer (11894) * on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:57PM (#13023096) Homepage
    The poster claims: Soon, a large portion of New York's yellow cars will also be "green."

    I would counter with an article I read in June in the Times:

    In summary, the only push for green taxis so far has been a trio of operators who purchased discount medallions from the city and then couldn't use them b/c there were no hybrids approved as taxis.

    Hybrid Taxis Encounter Catch-22 Of Regulation

    By SEWELL CHAN (NYT) 989 words
    Late Edition - Final , Section B , Page 1 , Column 5

    "Last October, New York City officials held a special auction of 27 heavily discounted taxi medallions that could be used only with cabs powered by natural gas or by a combination of gasoline and electricity. ... Eighteen of the licenses were sold, at an average price of $222,743, one-third less... "


    The infrastructure invested in the current NYC yellow taxi fleet, which happens to be almost exclusively Ford Crown Victoria, is not small. Savings on Petrol will not offset the costs of changing vehicles and support infrastructure. While the poster says "soon", I don't see "a large portion" of cabs going green before 2010.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @08:11PM (#13023433)
    Do hybrids actually mean less total emissions? Or just less at the tailpipe?
    • Is this supposed to make sense? Do you actually know what a hybrid is? With a hybrid, the only thing that goes in is gas. Less gas consumed per mile, less emissions at the tailpipe, how could that not be less emissions? Unless the battery is in some way incredibly environmentally-unfriendly -- but even then, one battery is supposed to last for a few hundred thousand miles.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Saturday July 09, 2005 @08:14PM (#13023448)
    Electric cabs that hence make no noise as they approach? Have you guys ever seen NY cabbies drive?

    Talk about silent but deadly!
  • by Yankel (770174) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @09:00PM (#13023637) Homepage
    I think the biggest obstacle getting hybrid taxis on the road is the lack of taxi-sized cars with hybrid engines. I was in New York last year and their cabs have quite a few safety mods for the driver and passenger.

    For instance, there's a wall between the driver and the passenger side of the cabin. That's going to be pretty tough to squeeze into any car smaller than a Crown Vic.

    This is a problem specific to New York cabs. And loosening up the specs for taxis may not be the answer -- they were put there for a reason.

    This won't be a problem in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where the Prius can already be seen ferrying around people.

    The only two large(r) sedans that have hybrid engines are the Prius and the Accord. If the big three were smart, they'd build a hybrid engine for small trucks with their Japanese partners to lower development costs (Ford/Mazda, Chrysler/Mitsubishi, GM/Toyota) and stick those suckers in the Crown Vic/500, Magnum/300 and the Impala/Regal.
  • by kallistiblue (411048) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @09:42AM (#13026152) Homepage
    I've thought about this and I think that the idea hybrid car would have the following features.

    -Reasonable price
    -diesel powered

    Why?
    Well diesel engines only require slight modification to run biodiesel. Biodiesel is a net zero gain carbon fuel.

    By this I mean that it's produced from organic crops so the carbon released is mearly absorbed by the next generation of fuel still in the fields.

    The USA currently pays farmers $30 billion dollars to not grow crops. Why not pay them to grow Rape Seed and Soy so that the country can create an abundance of Bio-Diesel fuel.

    The side advantage is that once the USA became less dependant on the oil of the middle east we would not have to be involved in middle east politics. Without our oil money the middle east would lose it's entire power base.

    If we were really smart we would create a Hybrid car that used a sterling engine which is about 2x as effecient as internal combustion engines at extracting fuel power.
    Sterling engines are what power nuclear subs. They only problem with Sterling Engines are that they tag 5 min or so to heat up and get miximum efficiency. With a hybrid car this is a moot problem because you can operate on battery power for the first 5 minutes.

    Read more about this here:
    http://www.hybrid-car-reviews.com/ [hybrid-car-reviews.com]

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