July 17, 2008 / 6:59 AM / 11 years ago

NYC speeds transformation of yellow cabs to green

Ford Escape Hybrid taxi cabs are parked together at an event to introduce the fuel-efficient vehicles into the taxi fleet in New York City November 10, 2005. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City’s yellow taxi fleet now will go green at the rate of 300 new hybrid cars a month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday, citing an agreement with car-makers to supply the fuel-light cabs.

There are already more than 1,300 hybrid taxis in the city, and each one saves its drivers about $6,500 a year, Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman Matthew Daus said in a joint statement with the mayor.

Bloomberg aims to accomplish 127 green initiatives before his second and final four-year term ends in 2010. In December, the Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to require all vehicles that join the taxi fleet to be hybrids by October 1. The only exception is for cabs specially equipped for the handicapped.

Nissan Motor Co has promised the city to supply up to 200 of its Altima hybrids per month, while General Motors will provide 50 Chevrolet Malibu hybrids and Ford Motor Co promised 50 of its Escape hybrids, the mayor said.

That adds up to 90 more cars per month than the Taxi and Limousine Commission had said were needed to meet its goals, which aim to ensure that by 2012, the entire taxi fleet will be all-hybrid or a mix that includes other cars with similar high mile-per-gallon ratings.

Fast-growing demand for hybrids in an era of soaring gasoline prices is one of the brightest markets for automobile companies and New York City is not alone in emphasizing taxis.

Ford, for example, says San Francisco put its first Escape hybrid taxi on the streets in 2005, followed by other cities, including Chicago.

Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., said New York City’s turn to hybrids could prove influential.

“That sends a key signal to automakers and to parts suppliers, such as battery makers and what not, to gear up their efforts to supply millions of hybrids, not just to fleets but to general consumers in the immediate time frame,” Kliesch said.

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal

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