DEARBORN, Mich. --- New York City's first mini-fleet of hybrid taxicabs -- six Ford Escape Hybrids -- took to the streets of the Big Apple Nov. 11. The Escape Hybrid is now doing taxi duty in New York City because of the Clean Air Taxis Act, passed by the New York City Council in July 2005. Spurred by growing concerns over New York's air quality, the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST), including the American Lung Association of the City of New York, the National Resources Defense Council, the New York League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club, worked for passage of the Clean Air Taxis Act. The act required the Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve at least one model of hybrid gas-electric vehicle for use as a New York City taxicab. "New York City is now the first major city to deploy hybrid cabs on a regular basis," said Jack Hidary, chair of CAST. "Hybrid engines reduce air pollution, fuel consumption, and driver expenses. Everybody wins with these cabs, and New York leads the way towards energy independence." New York's cab drivers are free to choose from seven gasoline-electric hybrid models. Ford was the natural first choice of the city's drivers. Already, the Ford Crown Victoria accounts for 90 percent of New York taxis. To compensate for the difference in backseat legroom between the Crown Victoria and the Escape, the Hybrid taxis will not be outfitted with security partitions between the front and back seats. Instead, security cameras will be mounted inside the cabin to monitor activity. New York City Council member John C. Liu, chairperson of the Transportation Committee, said the use of hybrid taxis will benefit cab drivers as they struggle with high fuel prices. According to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, each New York taxi averages nearly 100,000 miles of driving annually. Fuel savings for drivers and operators could reach the thousands of dollars every year. That savings could enable hybrid owners to recover the premium cost of the technology within the first year on the road. As approximately 2,000 of New York's 13,000 taxicabs are due for retirement in the coming year, the City Taxi and Limousine Commission is encouraging taxicab owners to switch to hybrids. The city is offering discounted medallions, or licenses, specifically for hybrids in order to jump-start the transition to the environmentally friendly vehicles. While the first fleet of Escape Hybrid taxis consists of six vehicles, more are on the way. For example, Evgeny Friedman of 28th Street Management purchased 18 hybrid medallions in a recent city auction, and promptly ordered 18 Ford Escape Hybrids from Manhattan Ford for his fleet of 650 cabs.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials