New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been frustrated so far by the courts in his quest to make all the city taxis get 25 mpg or better
A federal court said last October that Bloomberg’s mandate runs afoul of Federal law. The Mayor is trying a counter-move: to charge taxi operators more to operate non-hybrid taxis.
The League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an organization of 3,200 owner-drivers has been one of the groups at the sharp end of opposing the Mayor’s moves.
The controversy centers on this: The most popular taxi among cab companies and drivers is the Ford Crown Victoria, which does not get 25 mpg. The fuel economy is more like 19 mpg combined city and highway. In city driving, it gets only 16 mpg. In contrast, fuel economy, according to www.fueleconomy.gov, of the hybrids Bloomberg favors include 34 mpg city and 32 mpg combined for the Ford Escape Hybrid and 33 mpg city and 34 mpg combined for the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Real world fuel economy is not that high as cabbies drive their cars very hard and tend not to get the government fuel economy numbers.
The Escape and Prius, though, make for pretty awful taxis when cab companies install the divider between the front and back seat. In the case of Escape, the divider actually slants into the leg-room of the driver-side rear passenger in order to give the driver adequate leg-room. Egress problems for senior citizens and others who have physical challenges are considerable as well.
Ford recently met with members of the Bloomberg administration, though, about the Ford Transit Connect taxi concept (pictured above) it has been trying to advance. The taxi is built in Hungary and Ford is importing the vehicle this year to start selling to the trades businesses like plumbers and carpet cleaners who have expressed great interest in the vehicle as an alternative to minivans and full-sized vans.
With the courts on the side of the taxi-buyers, and Ford so far, look for Ford to sell some pilot taxis into the fleet later this year or early next year to get feedback from cabbies, as well as city officials.
The Transit Connect gets about 19 mpg city with 90% lower emissions than the Crown Vic. Those aren’t hybrid numbers, but it is an improvement over the Crown Vic. And the comfort and safety level of the Transit far exceeds the Crown Vic and the available hybrids.
Ford is intoducing an electric version of the Transit Connect for commeercial fleets, but that is not deemed practical for city taxis. A gas-electric hybrid has not been announced yet, but that would tend to make the city, cabbies and consumers, happier.
Ford will have to see if there is a market for hybrid Transit Connects. The company sells about 6,000 cabs a year right now, with 3,000-plus of those going to NYC. As one Ford executive told me, “I have never seen so much energy go into such a small business, but the company views the NYC taxi business as a great symbolic business and it is determined to keep its taxi business.”
BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.