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New York’s 10,000 Black Cars to Go Hybrid

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will require black cars—the large sedans (often Lincoln Town Cars) that primarily service corporate clients—to increase fuel efficiency standards to a level currently achievable only by using hybrid technology.

In December, the TLC voted unanimously to approve regulations that will require all yellow taxis licensed after 1 October 2008, to meet fuel efficiency standards currently only achievable through the use of hybrid technology. Black cars currently release 272,000 tons of CO2 equivalents annually, which make up 2% of the City’s transportation-related emissions. Under the new standards, emissions from black cars will be cut in half.

Currently, black cars average 12-15 mph. The TLC will require fuel efficiency standards for new licensed black car vehicles of 25 mpg in 2009 and 30 mpg in 2010. Many black cars line up, idling in front of office buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan awaiting customers. With hybrid powertrains, the engines will shut down instead. Also included in the proposed rule change is a requirement for vehicle retirement. The TLC currently does not set a vehicle retirement age for for-hire vehicles like it does for the yellow taxis. There will be a retirement phase-in cycle that will ensure almost all vehicles associated with black car bases are more fuel-efficient by 2013.

To help drivers finance the down payment associated with buying a new car, the City has worked with partners in the financial sector, auto dealers, and black car fleets to develop a range of solutions that will finance the higher down payment.

Over the past several months, the companies that use black cars have been meeting with drivers, base operators, car dealerships, and financing groups to figure out the best way to achieve a greener fleet. In the end, they asked the City to take a regulatory approach. We’ve come up with a proposal similar to the new yellow cab standards, which the TLC board approved unanimously last December. Between yellow taxis and black cars, more than 23,000 TLC regulated cars will be required to be more efficient. This will allow us to achieve substantial emissions reductions for our City—and keep us moving towards our long-term goal of creating a truly sustainable City.

—Mayor Bloomberg

Hybrid cars will save owner-operator drivers upwards of $5,000 per year in gasoline expenses—approximately 50% of their current fuel costs. These savings will allow drivers to cover, in just one year, the additional cost of purchasing a new hybrid car over the currently used Lincoln Town Car. As part of PlaNYC, the City proposed a State law to waive the City portion of the sales tax for vehicles that meet the EPA Elite standards for energy efficient vehicles, and the City is looking forward to working with State Legislators this year to enact that proposal. The City is also working with the Partnership for New York City and several financial institutions on a program to provide financing.

In addition to an Investment Fund spearheaded by the Partnership for New York City, and Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers has partnered with Executive Transportation Group (ETG), the largest black car supplier in New York, to jointly fund a first-of-its-kind lending company, Green Car Funding Corp. to provide low interest loans to ETG black car owner operators to purchase new hybrid vehicles.

Through extensive consultation with users, fleets, and drivers—including demonstrations of the new vehicle types&madsh;the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and the TLC have identified several efficient vehicle models that will have widespread acceptance, including: Toyota Camry Hybrid, 33 mpg (city); Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 27 mpg (city); Nissan Altima Hybrid, 35 mpg (city); and Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD, 34 mpg (city). In addition, other models may include: Lexus Rx400h AWD, Ford Escape Hybrid AWD, and Toyota Prius.

Outreach to dealerships indicates that there will be an adequate supply of vehicles. In addition, two networks of dealers of the most promising vehicles&mash;Best Ford Taxi and Hudson Toyota / Penske Automotive Group—have committed to making financing packages available to black car drivers. TLC will not penalize drivers who show proof that they have ordered a vehicle that meets the standard, but the vehicle has not yet arrived.

The plan to improve the fuel efficiency of the 10,000 black car fleet was envisioned as part of the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030, a set of 127 initiatives aimed at reducing New York’s carbon emissions and meeting the challenges of the City’s growing population. (Earlier post.)



If Ford had had a little foresight they would have announced a hybrid version of their Town Car some time ago. Hybrids are a no-brainer for this kind of application, when the cabs started changing over to the Prius, someone at Lincoln should have seen the writing on the wall. You can't blame everything on the Unions.

Mike L

Well said Neil. Where are their product marketing and strategy groups at?

Kit P

Is there some reason Bloomberg and all public officials can not take public transportation. Maybe it is time for public initiatives banning limos. I want to see the speaker of the house shitting in the backseat of a Corolla. Sandwiched between two car seats.


With that many cars, someone could start a company converting them to hybrid dual fuel. It might cost $50k each, but it is just money :)


All the more reason why a start/stop mild-hybrid should be a requirement for all new cars.


They will just probably buy Ford Escape hybrids and paint them black. That is the easiest thing to do and Ford is an American car company.

Stan Peterson

Now order the same thng for limousines for goverment officials. Better yet, ban government limousines.

fred diesel

Ban present-day government limos, but also their cousins, the thirsty V8 "Police Interceptor". No PD or taxi operator needs these things. And yes, anyone that can retrofit a belt-driven starter/alternator system should do well.


hm, lame that camry is listed as one of the "official" models, while prius os one of the "may work" models. doesn't really make much sense – prius is cheaper, gets better mileage, and has more interior and cargo space. the only issue is rear head clearance for passengers, but i'm sure that with orders of this size they could get some customization shop to lower the back seats a bit...


"Is there some reason Bloomberg and all public officals can not take public transportation."
Mike Bloomberg rides the subway to work.


Ford would have been much better off if they had expanded hybrid production to the Crown Victoria. Every police force/mayor in the country would have jumped through hoops to be able to boast that they had cut their carbon footprint by more than 50% while allowing the police to operate their computers without leaving the engine idling all the time like they do now.
That having been said, the hybrid fleet should be expanded to at least two or three more types of cars, i.e the Crown Vic, the Town Car, the Edge, Fusion, or Ranger. What I really wish, though, is that Ford would make the electric motor more powerful and the engine smaller.


Late this year Ford is suppose to have a Fusion hybrid based on the Escape setup. They have a 75kw motor in the Escape and with the 2.5l I4 it should have plenty of pep.


There is a larger force at play here. Will government finally move to protect our people or will the energy companies (read Big Oil here) continue to dictate energy policy based on their lobbying power, campaign contributions, and favors to our national politicians.

Mayor Bloomberg has stepped up and is trying to force sane decisions by the car companies. Several Governors get it. Will the new President respond with a workable energy policy? Will Congress wise up? It's still a long time until this administration leaves office in January. Let us pray!

Rafael Seidl

First off, the TLC should not be insisting on any particular technology. Instead, it should define only CO2 emissions standards in addition to the regular toxic emissions regs. A T2B5 diesel engine with start-stop functionality will solve the problem at lower cost than a full gasoline hybrid will.

Another point to bear in mind is that limousine drivers idle their engines to keep the A/C or heating running (depending on season). They could - and would - cut the ignition by hand if they could deliver the high level of comfort their customers expect without burning expensive fuel. Better thermal insulation of the passenger compartment would help in winter. Relocating the waiting areas such that they are in the shade of buildings or trees or else, covering them with a roof, would help in summer.

Kit P

Jason, thanks for the correction about Bloomberg. It is nice when the super rich live some kind of modest lifestyle.

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