The workhorse of taxi fleets across the U.S. is the Ford Crown Victoria. Also popular as a cop car, the Crown Vic is known for its body-on-frame design (easy to repair) and impressive cargo and interior space. One area it does not excel in is gas mileage, as the big V8 engine aren’t all that efficient to begin with. Task them with the stop-and-go nature of city driving, and gas mileage plummets.
New York City has been trying for several years to force taxi owners to switch to hybrids. A recent ruling by a Federal judge backed up an earlier ruling that barred the city from mandating hybrid taxis.
In 2007, New York attempted to mandate all taxi cabs had to be of the hybrid or alternative-fuel variety by October of 2009. City taxi drivers sued, and a Federal judge agreed, blocking the ruling. Taxi companies work by “leasing” taxis to their drivers at a set rate every shift. So early last year, New York tried again, this time letting taxi companies raise their lease rates to drivers by $3 for hybrids, while dropping the lease rate by $12 for gas-powered vehicles. Taxi companies sued again, saying the law was basically a mandate to buy hybrids. The judge agreed again, and blocked the law.
On one hand, I can understand why the taxi companies wouldn’t want to be forced to buy a new fleet of hybrids. About 28% of New Y0rk’s 13,257 taxis (I thought there were more than that!) are hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. That is a lot of new cars to buy in short order.
It has long been rumored that the Crown Victoria will bow out come 2011. Ford has already introduced a police version of the Taurus to serve as the Crown Victoria’s replacement. And shouldn’t these taxi cab companies be thinking more along the lines of “The less gas I use, the more money I make!” Maybe instead of forcing taxi companies to make the change, give them a financial incentive. Then again, New York is broke. You can’t drive Crown Vics forever though, and Ford has already touted the Transit Connect as a would-be passenger replacement, and it costs about what a Crown Vic did. Other cities, including Boston and L.A., are also seeking ways to force taxi companies to employ hybrids. They might have to get creative.
So should cities be allowed to set their own taxi fleet standards? Or is asking taxi companies to make a potentially costly change to hybrids too much?
Source: New York Times | Image: Ford
Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.