America’s Green Taxi Fleet Continues To Grow

My NRDC colleague Mark Izeman has reported on the greening of taxis in New York and London.  Forty percent of New York’s yellow taxis — 5,000 vehicles — are already hybrids, though these will gradually be replaced, as will all the city’s cabs, by Nissan NV200 models, which are conventionally fueled but relatively efficient.   This is part of New York’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” program.

While the NV200s will be significantly more efficient than most of New York’s current fleet, a problem with the program, at least initially, is that they could be less efficient than hybrids.  Mark questions whether the city should be doing more:

“On the positive side, the initial version of this conventional, non-hybrid vehicle gets roughly double the gas mileage (25 mpg) of the long-used Ford Crown Victoria.  The new taxi model also incorporates enhanced comfort and safety features.  Further, Nissan – which has voiced a strong commitment to electric cars — has indicated it could produce an all-electric version of the NV200 by 2017 and will also soon launch a pilot program to test six all-electric Nissan LEAFs cabs in the city.

“But as things now stand [July 2012], it is not clear that the final agreement between New York City and Nissan to implement the Taxi of Tomorrow program will offer a path forward to strong hybrid or electric-only taxis throughout the fleet.”

zero-emission taxi in London (by: Martyn @ Negaro, creative commons)

Another city with an iconic fleet of taxicabs has been moving toward a greener fleet at least since 2004 when, Mark writes, a hybrid diesel electric vehicle was first unveiled on the streets of London.  During this summer’s Olympic Games, the city introduced five zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell cabs as a demonstration project.  When they were about to be launched, Mark described them:

“These redesigned classic black London cabs will be powered by a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell system and a lithium battery pack, and will only emit water from their tailpipes.  They reportedly can travel a full day of operation (up to 250 miles) without going through the five-minute process of refueling.”

Very impressive.  Cabs in many cities, both in the US and abroad, are moving one way or another toward a greener future, and that’s a very good thing.  I’d love to hear from readers about more examples.

I sometimes allow myself the luxury of a taxi ride home after a long day in the office.  Here in Washington, many of the drivers are African, leading to some fascinating conversations about politics, music and food.  After we talked African music for a bit, one driver sensed my enthusiasm and took me by a special shop so I could pick up some new music on my way home.  Another, while talking about his favorite restaurant in a suburban strip mall, recounted the merits of some special goat-derived delicacy.  “Your wife will really like it,” he stressed excitedly, “if you understand what I’m telling you, sir.”  Haven’t tried it yet.

Here’s a video about the Chicago program:

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