NYC speeds hybrid taxi switch

New York City will now be adding 300 hybrids a month to its taxi fleet, thanks to an agreement with automakers.

Brian Zak/Sipa Press/NEWSCOM
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces a guaranteed supply of hybrid vehicles for city taxi fleet held at City Hall.

New York City will be adding 300 hybrids a month to its taxi fleet, thanks to an agreement with automakers.

Nissan, General Motors, and Ford announced Wednesday that they would be helping the city reach its goal of making all of its taxis fuel-efficient by 2012 by making 200 Altimas, 50 Malibus, and 50 Escapes – all hybrids – available for purchase by private taxi companies, Reuters reported.

There are currently about 13,000 taxicabs on New York's streets; of these, 1,300 are hybrids. The rest are mostly Ford Crown Vics, which get about 14 miles per gallon.

New city regulations require that all vehicles that join the city's taxicab fleet get at least 25 miles per gallon. Next year, that increases to 30 m.p.g.

In press release the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman Matthew W. Daus said that the fuel-efficient vehicles will save drivers around $6,500 per year.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the automakers for stepping up at a time when hybrids are becoming harder to buy:

“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 Mayor Bloomberg. “Nissan North America, Inc., General Motors and the Ford Motor Company have gone above and beyond to help us meet our goals. And they are not only helping New Yorkers breathe easier, they are helping taxi drivers save money.”

Not everyone is happy with the plan, however. The Associated Press quoted one fleet owner who said that there was not yet enough research about the safety of hybrid cabs, which are subject to much more wear and tear than the average car. Ron Sherman, of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, told the AP that the city "is asking taxi passengers and taxi drivers to become human crash-test dummies."

For what it's worth, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Ford Crown Victoria performs worse in crash tests than the non-hybrid versions of the Altima, the Malibu, or the Escape.

Mayor Bloomberg says that the health hazards of exhaust fumes outweigh the risks of crashes. The Associated Press reports that, when asked about the safety of hybrids, the mayor responded: "Maybe that's not what you should be worrying about — try the air that you're breathing when they go by."

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