New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has proposed a plan to replace all NYC taxis with hybrid vehicles over the next five years:
“There’s an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City obviously, so it makes a real big difference,” Mayor Bloomberg said on NBC’s “Today” show yesterday [22 May]. “These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes. This does a lot less; it’s a lot better for all of us.”The plan doesn't actually prescribe hybrids, but instead has requirements for fuel economy and exhaust emissions, and those requirements are currently only met by hybrids.
Replacing the city’s 13,000 yellow cabs, more than 90 percent of which are Crown Victorias, with hybrid vehicles would have the same impact on air quality as removing 32,000 privately owned vehicles from the road, the mayor said. Hybrids, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, emit less exhaust and are far more fuel-efficient; a hybrid Ford Escape, for instance, is rated at 34 miles per gallon in city driving.
It strikes me that this plan is exactly right, and has been well thought out. For one thing, focusing on the result (less fuel consumption, less pollution) is a much better approach than focusing on the current technology (hybrid cars, specifically), since it allows us to adapt to technological changes without having to change the law. And then consider the issues:
- Hybrid cars cost more, for now, than conventional cars, but the difference in price will, for drivers putting as much on their cars are cabbies do, easily be offset by the fuel savings.
- Cabs have to be replaced at least every five years already, according to TLC (the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which still has to approve the plan) regulations, so the five-year timetable is reasonable and doesn't demand that cabbies shell out for a new car any sooner than they'd have to do anyway.
- Manufacturers stand a lot to gain by building newer, roomier hybrids that will satisfy the cab drivers' concerns about the size and comfort of current hybrids, compared with the Ford Crown Victoria model that's generally used now.
- Hybrids aren't ideal vehicles for all situations, but for the use we're talking about here, which involves plodding through the often-stagnant New York City traffic, they seem the perfect choice. They'll spend a lot of time moving slowly or stopped at traffic lights or in traffic jams, and that's when a hybrid really shines, as it shuts down its gasoline engine entirely and uses its electric engine instead.
Here's hoping that the TLC approves the plan and that it serves as an example!