Toyota Camry Hybrid NYC Taxi [Photo: Flickr user gomattolson]Enlarge Photo
So what will New York City's next taxi be?
As little as a week ago, you might have assumed that Nissan's NV200 'Taxi of Tomorrow' would become the dominant cab in NYC.
That plan has now been curtailed, at least to some degree, by a state Supreme Court ruling that the city's plan to standardize its 14,000 medallion taxis on a single vehicle is unlawful.
First Nissan NV200 New YorkEnlarge Photo
Supplies of the city's two now-dominant cabs (the aging, out-of-production Ford Crown Victoria sedan, and the efficient but equally defunct Ford Escape Hybrid) will eventually dry up--so perhaps no single vehicle is likely to wear the famous yellow livery for some time to come.
Instead, reports The New York Times, NYC's taxi fleet may well end up containing the same mix of hybrids as other cities across the country.
That includes cars like the ubiquitous Toyota Prius, Prius V, Camry Hybrid, and Ford C-Max Hybrid.
While the Crown Vic was legendarily sturdy and cheap to fix, its grim passenger cabin, harsh ride, and poor fuel economy put it well behind the benefits offered by the Nissan, and indeed by most hybrids.
One taxi driver, John McDonagh, told the Times that a typical 12-hour shift over the summer used only 3 or 4 gallons of gasoline in a C-Max Hybrid.
In a Crown Victoria, that figure would have topped 13 or 14 gallons.
The C-Max isn't immune from criticism, though. It lacks the cargo space needed by customers with large amounts of luggage. Other such models suffer a similar shortfall.
Three Ford taxi cabs in New York City: Crown Victoria, C-Max Hybrid, and Escape HybridEnlarge Photo
While McDonagh believes passengers "suck it up" for the few minutes they have to suffer in a cramped cab, the common issues of passenger needs are the ones the Nissan was designed to solve.
More space, better access, a transparent roof to appreciate NYC's high-rise buildings, and useful details like phone-charging ports were all part of the Taxi of Tomorrow's appeal.
It's likely, of course, that at least some fleets will still fall for the futuristic Taxi's attributes, not least the extra comfort and visibility for drivers themselves.
But it won't be as ubiquitous as Nissan, nor the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, had hoped.
The good news is, the slack may well be taken up by a variety of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles.
Which was, after all, a large part of the city's goal in the first place.