But those hybrids are under threat from Nissan's NV200 'Taxi of Tomorrow'--van-turned-cab which won a contest to provide New York City with virtually all of its cabs, two years ago.
The Greater New York Taxi Association wants the NV200 banned, since it's not yet a hybrid (though such a vehicle is on the horizon), and has brought a lawsuit against the city to ensure it can't be used.
In response, says The New York Times, a proposal from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission means drivers would be able to use hybrids instead of the NV200--provided said hybrids had at least 138 cubic feet of interior volume.
That sounds reasonable, until you realise it rules out popular hybrid taxis such as the Toyota Prius and Camry. In reality, it rules out any vehicle that isn't a van--like the NV200--or SUV.
"These rules look like they have been created to short-circuit the litigation," said the Taxi Association in a statement. "We do not consider this to be a serious proposal."
The Association's lawsuit is based on the city's Administrative Code, requiring the commission to allow hybrid cars as an option for taxi operators.
The Taxi of Tomorrow will be the sole car permitted for virtually all operators--meaning hybrids would effectively be banned. The NV200 is not yet available as a hybrid--though there's one in the pipeline, along with an electric variant--and lacks the hybrid options' economy.
Instead, Nissan's replacement for New York's throng of hybrid taxis and dwindling numbers of gas-guzzling Ford Crown Vics majors on space (the same 138 cubic feet as the new proposal suggests) and passenger comfort. The car even features transparent roof panels--letting passengers stare up at the city's skyscrapers--and a "lower-annoyance" horn. The NV200's lack of wheelchair accessibility--a retrofit option only--has been criticized, however.
The Taxi Association's ideals clearly differ from those of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which tried to block the use of more efficient taxis a few years ago--following fights against a string of other regulations put in place by the city. It's clear that whatever works for some taxi drivers, may not work for others...
NYC's hybrid taxis still aren't ready to bow down yet though, and nor are the city's drivers and fleets. Should the city's proposal be rejected, it could be a lawsuit that decides what cabbies will be driving in the future.