Just as London has its iconic black cabs, New York would be a distinctly different place without thousands of Ford Crown Victorias cruising its streets, in their distinctive yellow livery.

Even so, the past decade has seen vehicles like the Ford Escape Hybrid becoming a popular yellow cab, achieving significantly better economy than the Crown Vic and pumping out less pollution, too.

But as Nissan's NV-200 passenger van becomes NYC's official taxi, there's an unintended consequence--gas-sipping hybrid taxis may temporarily start to disappear from New York's fleet.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Greater New York Taxi Association executive director Ethan Gerber says that almost half the current taxi fleet are hybrids.

Around 6,000 of the 13,237 yellow cabs are hybrid vehicles, a number set to go down as the less efficient non-hybrid NV-200 is phased in.

The Nissan has been chosen for its safety and economy credentials, particularly over the popular but ageing Crown Vics that once dominated NYC's streets, and average around 12 miles per gallon. The NV-200 is expected to get around 25 mpg in service--but an Escape Hybrid is capable of 34 miles per gallon.

New York City taxi cab

New York City taxi cab

Opponents to the Nissan also argue that it restricts taxi driver choice, particularly for those now won over by the high gas mileage of hybrid vehicles. Others oppose the new 'Taxi of Tomorrow' as not every model is capable of accepting wheelchairs.

It may not be all bad news, though.

Given development of its own, in-house hybrid system--which will be launched on the Altima next year--many expect it  to launch a hybrid version of the NV-200 before long, and in the meantime replacement of those gas-guzzling V8 Crown Vics should go some way to reducing fuel use anyway.

Furthermore, around 1,000 vehicles will be exempt from the phase-in for various reasons, including 273 required to be high-mileage vehicles.

And even more imminently, Nissan could use a small fleet of electric NV-200s, already in operation as delivery vehicles in both Japan and London.

Meanwhile, the Taxi of Tomorrow is being phased in slowly, replacing the oldest taxis on New York's streets, and they're unlikely to be seen in bulk until 2015--but many will be hoping hybrids will come along sooner rather than later.


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