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New Yorkers Want Hybrid Taxis; Taxi Commission Isn’t So Sure

 The New York-based Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST), has released a poll indicating that 70% of New Yorkers think it is important (34% of that very important) for hybrids to become the majority of the New York City taxi fleet over the next five years.

That same 70% (43% strongly) supports City Council bill (Introduction) 642 that would permit hybrid vehicles to meet specifications for license by the Taxi and Limo Commission. Intro 642 apparently is stalling in the Transportation Comittee, however.

Intro 642, the “Clean Air Taxicabs Pilot Program Act,” would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to approve one or more hybrid vehicles for use as taxis, and specifies that the law go into effect 30 days after enactment.

The Council passed legislation two years ago requiring 9% of new taxi medallions to be for alternative fuel vehicles, but the TLC has failed to approve a hybrid vehicle or implement a pilot program even though nineteen taxi owners invested money to purchase the special medallions.

At a meeting of the Transportation Committee on 16 June, to discuss the bill, the city’s taxi commission chairman, Matthew W. Daus, told the committee that “the 30-day time frame is neither practical nor legal.” (NY Times) As noted in the Times article:

Mr. Daus, a lawyer who was originally appointed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that when he took the job in 2001, the No. 1 complaint he heard from passengers was the lack of legroom.

Advocates have pressed the commission to approve the use of the hybrid Ford Escape, but Mr. Daus said he did not believe cab users would like it.

The Committee has laid over the bill; it will not be voted upon by the Council on 22 June as its supporters had hoped.

Other results of the poll:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of taxi riders are more likely to vote for an elected official who supports hybrid taxis.

  • Pollution and air quality (55%) is the most important environmental problem for voters in New York City.  Trash and waste is a distant second (10%) and overdevelopment (4%) is third.

  • Three-fourths (75%) of registered voters say New York City’s air quality is only fair or poor and half (49% getting worse) are pessimistic about the future of New York City’s air quality.

The survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group between June 11-14, 2005, among 600 registered voters in New York City. Additional voters were contacted in Manhattan to ensure enough taxi riders were surveyed to be statistically significant. Respondents were chosen from a voter list. The margin of error for this survey at the 95% confidence level is +/- 4% on the overall sample. The margin of error on sub-samples is greater. Interview quotas were set by region based on registration data. The survey was conducted using professional phone interviewers. The interviews were conducted with a CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) system.



I don't think the hybrid Ford Escape would be practical/comfortable, but the Toyota Camry Hybrid is due out next year and it has plenty of leg room and trunk space. Given then number of taxis in New York, one would think that this would be a top-priority.

Better still, New York could look at electric vehicles.



The Ford Escape could work well for airport taxis when picking up a group, or other specialized fares.

I agree that the Camry might be the way to go. Also, there's always the Lexus for the limo services in NYC. NYC has tons of non-stretch limos -- black Caddies, Towncars, and the like.

Also, the law doesn't seem to require that the vehicles are hybrid. What about CNG taxis? Biodiesals? etc?

Mikhail Capone

It would be interesting to know how many kms an average taxi drives per day in NYC. Maybe it is within the range of electric vehicles..


Maybe it is within the range of electric vehicles..

I doubt it's in the km range or the acceleration range for electric vehicles. Many taxis are driven between 16 and 24 hours each day. The taxi driver stops driving, but hands the vehicle over to the next driver. So, electric vehicles run into the trouble of charging. Sure, they could swap batteries, but that "infrastrucuture" of a vehicle with frequently swapped batteries isn't exactly mature.


The Escape makes a great taxi, it gets 33-36 city mpg to the Camry's ?mpg, the Escape has more than an inch more leg room and about 8 inches more shoulder room. It is roomier and easier to get in and out of, plus its mileage is much better than any comparably sized conventional taxi. In DC we already have suv cabs and the drivers love them because the riders tell the doormen to pull them to the front of the cabline, which is money in a drivers pocket. I don't know if the latter will happen in NY, tho.

Mikhail Capone


About the range, I agree. But as for the acceleration, I think that almost any mature all-electric vehicle would have a pretty good acceleration at the kind of speeds that taxis are driven. Electric motors have TONS of torque from 1 rpm, unlike ICEs.

But yeah, if the vehicles are driven around the clock, some kind of way to swap batteries would have to be devised. Still, it's not an impossible thing to do.

John Atkinson

stomv -

it's a real shame that Ford discontinued its CNG vehicles - those 9% of new taxi medallions were originally envisioned going to CNG crown vics.

and the Lexus-as-black-car idea is a great one, I know a really sharp guy working on a campaign to get the Lexus hybrids in widespread use by the black car companies in NYC, which actually slightly outnumber taxis on the streets. I haven't heard from him in awhile, but he had definitely been having some high-level discussions with some big corporations that use these services. I wouldn't be surprised if something comes of it - I should see how that's going...


Why not electrify the cab lines and taxi stands?  If a driver plugs in when he hits the line and the car has a fast charger, he might be up to 100% before he hits the end.  You make the charging cords slide along a track so cars can move without unplugging; when they hit the end, the cord disconnects and retracts upward.

The lead-acid fast chargers have been around for years; they use brief periods of reverse current to eliminate gas bubbles on the plates.  With this sort of system, there's no reason why all NYC cabs couldn't have been electric by now; it's 309 square miles, so not even 20 miles across.  An EV with 50 miles of range and recharging posts all over would have no difficulties.


"Why not electrify the cab lines and taxi stands?"

This might work at monitored stands, such as the airports, train stations, bus depots, and some hotels. But, I can't see this working out real well in unsupervised scenarios.

An interesting idea nonetheless.


Non-supervised sites could use the "electrified parking meter" scheme, with a cord reel on the car.  Jacking into 220 V @ 15 amps would refill batteries at the rate of about 12 highway-speed miles per hour of charge, probably more for creeping in traffic; it would also allow the car's heat and A/C to run without the engine.

If the taxis were hybrids, they wouldn't be tied to the grid - but the more they could substitute electricity for gasoline, the cleaner and quieter the city would be.


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