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OK, NYC Taxis Can Be Hybrids After All, City Says

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2014 Nissan NV200 Taxi, New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow

2014 Nissan NV200 Taxi, New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow

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Politics in New York City are a tough, bruising game.

Pit a billionaire Mayor with a desire to make the city work better and cut carbon emissions against the entrenched interests of taxi owners, and you get an ongoing battle.

The latest skirmish is a concession by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission over the sticky issue of whether future cabs should be hybrids.

On Thursday, the TLC said taxi medallion owners can choose to buy hybrid cabs instead of the Nissan "Taxi of Tomorrow".

It complies with a May court ruling that required taxi operators to be given the option of continuing to use hybrids--as required by its own law.

The administrative decision came in response to a lawsuit by taxi owners slamming the Taxi of Tomorrow because it's not offered as a hybrid.

Yet.

The TLC will let taxi owners continue to use their growing fleets of hybrid taxis until Nissan adds a hybrid option to the extended-wheelbase Taxi of Tomorrow version of its NV200 small commercial van.

Love for hybrids ironic

The taxi owners' eager embrace of hybrids is ironic to New York City taxi passengers who recall owners fighting tooth and nail against the city's attempt to license hybrid taxis and boost the then-dismal average gas mileage of the cab fleet several years ago.

The taxi industry took the city administration to court over its gas-mileage rules for taxis, and won.

Back in July 2010, a court struck down NYC's ability to mandate minimum gas-mileage levels for medallion cabs, saying only the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can regulate fuel efficiency.

But last year, the Ford Crown Victoria full-size sedan--beloved of taxi owners for its simple mechanical layout, supposed durabilty, and unchanging design--finally went out of production.

Regular hybrids cheaper

Now taxi owners want to use production hybrids, rather than the purpose-built Taxi of Tomorrow, because they're cheaper to buy.

Not as cheap as the Crown Vic was, sadly for them--but that was then and this is now.

It's not about gas mileage, though. Taxi owners simply don't care.

They have no incentive to use cars that get better gas mileage, because they don't pay for the gasoline--the fleet drivers who lease the cabs do.

Ford Escape Hybrid New York Taxi. Image by Flickr user Jason Tabarias

Ford Escape Hybrid New York Taxi. Image by Flickr user Jason Tabarias

Enlarge Photo

Every fleet driver has to fuel his own cab. Those drivers love the hybrids, which can return 25 to 30 mpg in hard city use--against the 10 to 12 mpg achieved in Crown Vics.

The taxi owners are battling to keep hybrids because they're cheaper to buy than the custom-built Taxi of Tomorrow.

In any event, NYC taxis that are production hybrid models will continue to ply their trade on the city's streets for several years.

Hybrids only a stepping-stone

Will Nissan announce a hybrid powertrain for its Taxi of Tomorrow, which will start deliveries with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine? Almost surely.

But hybrid taxis aren't where the big win comes.

2013 Nissan Leaf electric car tested as taxi in New York City, April 2013

2013 Nissan Leaf electric car tested as taxi in New York City, April 2013

Enlarge Photo

That would be the electric version of the taxi, recharged perhaps once daily via DC quick charging.

Those won't show up in New York City for several years, but the powertrain is already being tested in a small fleet of Nissan Leaf taxis to be tested in the city this year.

In other words, tomorrow's Taxi of Tomorrow might well be all-electric (perhaps by 2018 or so).

Which would make hybrids look positively old-fashioned.

Meanwhile, long-suffering NYC taxi passengers look forward to the arrival of cabs that offer legroom, at least some outward visibility, and things like power points for their devices when the first Taxis of Tomorrow hit the roads in October.

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Comments (9)
  1. tesla model s with a batery swap station only for the taxi company
     
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    Bad stuff?

     
  2. Model X: the ultimate cab? If the economics work (and I think they do) Tesla should be able to offer very competitive lease deals for cabbies.
     
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  3. Do you think NYC cab company is going to full electric if the Japanese taxi drivers are already trying to opt out with their Leaf taxi?
     
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  4. Absolutely positively damned stupid decision by the mayor. Honestly, where do they get off demanding all taxis in NYC be only one model, from a foreign automaker, using one engine and one body. Fortunately at least now a court will allow some hybrids but when that Nissan gets hybridized all other choices end. Stupid. Here in Chicago we have a wide diversity of taxis -- most now seem to be Toyota and Ford hybrids, some Hyundais, and many small 4-cyl Scion XBs. The Crown Vic is almost all gone (thank Gd). The hybrids are kicking butt because of gas savings. Plus we have hundreds of natural gas VPG M-1 (Hummer) and Ford Transit taxis and conversions, equally cutting emissions. NY could learn a lesson. Stop being so rigid on taxis NYC.
     
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  5. if Tesla has a functional battery swap standard and is willing to license it
    at a reasonable price they can make it a industrial standard
     
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  6. "The taxi owners' eager embrace of hybrids is ironic to New York City taxi passengers who recall owners fighting tooth and nail against the city's attempt to license hybrid taxis and boost the then-dismal average gas mileage of the cab fleet several years ago"

    I do love that, the cabbies fought change and then discovered how much they liked them. It may have been easy to pay some money to incentivize the
    change, and let the word catch on
     
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  7. @Pat: Just to be clear, the cabbies--or drivers--loved the hybrids from Day One, because their daily fuel costs were cut in half or more.

    The taxi OWNERS, from whom drivers lease, hated hybrids because they weren't Crown Vics--meaning they weren't as toughly built and the parts weren't as cheap.
     
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  8. This is really the best news to come out of NYC in over six years, when Mayor Bloomberg first vowed to convert the entire fleet to hybrid vehicles.

    Now perhaps America's largest and greatest city will embrace competition and innovation, and a really great and viable low-carbon taxi will emerge and capture taxi fleets coast-to-coast.

    San Francisco has converted nearly 100% of our fleet to hybrid,a mixture of the (sadly) discontinued Ford Escape hybrid, Toyota Camry, Prius, and Prius V, Ford C-max, and a handful of others.
    All have their advantages and disadvantages, but there is no reason any taxi should be going into service now that is not rated 40 mpg or higher.

    The new NV 200 has a few goods things going for it.Now let's see a hybrid!
     
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  9. Maybe instead of putting a spin on NYC taxi drivers/owners as being wishy washy on what they want, you put yourself behind the wheel. Our taxi's are our office - sitting in them for 12 hours a day. I own a medallion. I drive. I pay for my fuel.I am brand specific for a variety of reasons - parts and service being one of them. At the time hybrids hit the scene, drivers/owners did not like the idea of the limited variety available, such as a Prius, but that has changed. As far as the Nissan goes, I don't want one. I don't want to drive a van around for 12 hours. It's my money and my office,I should be able to buy what I want, on top of the required regulations I have to buy (new decals, taxi tv, gps etc etc.)
     
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