Hail a Hybrid!

Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi

We’re very green this week at the CarGurus Blog, aren’t we? One of the week’s biggest stories on the green automotive front was the announcement by New York’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg of a plan to turn all of New York’s yellow cabs green: by 2012, according to His Honor, all licensed taxicabs in New York will be hybrids.

Right now, says City Hall, 400 of New York’s taxis are hybrids. Bloomberg’s plan, based in part on an earlier proposal by City Councilman David Yassky, would phase the environment-friendly new vehicles in over time, with a target of 1,000 hybrid cabs on the street by this October. A headline-friendly appearance on NBC’s Today show, in which Bloomberg unveiled ten Ford Escape hybrids donated by Yahoo.com, launched the initiative.

Response to the initiative has been quite positive, with praise from the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers as well as the American Lung Association of the City of New York, whose president, Louise Vetter, said “Putting more clean cabs on New York City streets is an important step in our fight to improve air quality.”

Hybrids are great choices for city taxicabs: they can idle on battery power, and use gas for higher-speed driving. The gas/electric model is extremely well-suited for the stop-and-go nature of most taxi driving, especially in highly congested New York. And the Ford Escape Hybrid is a roomy, comfortable SUV whose 36 city miles per gallon EPA rating is head and shoulders above the city’s existing taxi fleet.

But where is the hybrid sedan that’s going to replace the backbone of New York’s yellow cab infrastructure, the good old Ford Crown Victoria? And while we’re thinking about the Crown Vic, wouldn’t a hybrid version of that sturdy warhorse make our cities’ police departments a lot greener?

The New York initiative is an important first step. We’ll have to wait and see if the automotive industry–especially the beleaguered U.S. automakers–take this nudge in the right direction. And hybrids alone may not be the answer; by 2012, it may make more sense for a city’s taxi fleet to have a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, including rechargeables like the Chevy Volt and small runabouts like the SmartCar or the ZAP Zebra. But for now, I’m looking forward to hailing a hybrid!

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