Sunday, March 09, 2008

New York’s 10,000 Black Cars to Go Hybrid

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will require black cars—the large sedans (often Lincoln Town Cars) that primarily service corporate clients—to increase fuel efficiency standards to a level currently achievable only by using hybrid technology.

Black cars currently release 272,000 tons of CO2 equivalents annually, which make up 2% of the City’s transportation-related emissions. Under the new standards, emissions from black cars will be cut in half. The plan to improve the fuel efficiency of the 10,000 black car fleet was envisioned as part of the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030.

Currently, black cars average 12-15 mph. The TLC will require fuel efficiency standards for new licensed black car vehicles of 25 mpg in 2009 and 30 mpg in 2010. Many black cars line up, idling in front of office buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan awaiting customers. With hybrid powertrains, the engines will shut down instead. Also included in the proposed rule change is a requirement for vehicle retirement. The TLC currently does not set a vehicle retirement age for for-hire vehicles like it does for the yellow taxis. There will be a retirement phase-in cycle that will ensure almost all vehicles associated with black car bases are more fuel-efficient by 2013.

Hybrid cars will save owner-operator drivers upwards of $5,000 per year in gasoline expenses—approximately 50% of their current fuel costs. These savings will allow drivers to cover, in just one year, the additional cost of purchasing a new hybrid car over the currently used Lincoln Town Car.

Through extensive consultation with users, fleets, and drivers—including demonstrations of the new vehicle types; the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and the TLC have identified several efficient vehicle models that will have widespread acceptance, including: Toyota Camry Hybrid, 33 mpg (city); Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 27 mpg (city); Nissan Altima Hybrid, 35 mpg (city); and Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD, 34 mpg (city). In addition, other models may include: Lexus Rx400h AWD, Ford Escape Hybrid AWD, and Toyota Prius.
It makes more sense for taxis and black cars to be hybrids than almost any other type of car. These cars on on the road all the time, use lots of fuel, and where fuel savings would be the greatest. If upgrading to a hybrid pays for itself in less than a year, why haven't the black car companies done this on their own already? Seems like the return on investment more than justifies it. Ironic how it takes government regulation to make these companies run more efficiently and profitably.

A couple of smart comments on the post:
Ford would have been much better off if they had expanded hybrid production to the Crown Victoria. Every police force/mayor in the country would have jumped through hoops to be able to boast that they had cut their carbon footprint by more than 50% while allowing the police to operate their computers without leaving the engine idling all the time like they do now.
Good point. I agree that a hybrid Crown Vic would be a big winner in the market.
Another point to bear in mind is that limousine drivers idle their engines to keep the A/C or heating running (depending on season). They could - and would - cut the ignition by hand if they could deliver the high level of comfort their customers expect without burning expensive fuel. Better thermal insulation of the passenger compartment would help in winter. Relocating the waiting areas such that they are in the shade of buildings or trees or else, covering them with a roof, would help in summer.
Interesting idea.

via Green Car Congress


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Audacious Epigone said...

Ironic how it takes government regulation to make these companies run more efficiently and profitably.

Or, more likely, those cost estimates are just wrong.

Fat Knowledge said...


Or, more likely, those cost estimates are just wrong.

Do you have anything to backup that contention?

Taking a second look at the assumptions and analysis, I think it looks good.

There are really 2 parts to this. One is switching to a hybrid, and the second is switching to more efficient cars.

On switching to more efficient cars, the luxury might go down some, but the gas mileage will certainly go up. I could see an argument that the decrease in luxury negatively impacts people, but I don't think it makes that much difference.

The second part is switching to hybrids.

Using this calculator for the Chevy Tahoe and Toyota Camry, it looks like converting to a hybrid increases gas mileage by around 33% (25mpg to 33mpg for the Camry and 14mpg to 21mpg for Tahoe, that is actually 50%, but lets go with the smaller one). Given the idling and stop and go traffic that these cars drive through, they may actually do better than that.

Lets assume a black car gets 12 mpg currently, travels 40,000 miles a year (a little over 100 miles a day) and gasoline is $3.00 a gallon.

Converting to a hybrid with a 33% increase in mpg would go to 16mpg. That would decrease gasoline consumption a year from 3,333 gallons to 2,500 or a savings of 833 gallons. At $3 a gallon that is $2,500 a year in savings. If the hybrid costs an extra $5,000, it would take 2 years to recoup that investment. That is a 50% return on investment each year. I don't know any business man who wouldn't jump at a 50% rate of return.

Do you see anything wrong with the assumptions or analysis here?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. Hiring a hybrid Limousine as wedding transport is becoming an increasing popular choice for new married couples, according to empirical research from a leading national think-tank. The survey conducted showed that whilst couples are generally spending more on their weddings than ten years ago, value for money is also becoming more of an issue with couples looking to make their day as memorable as possible.

Rebelfish said...

So, when the Taxi and Livery Commission sued NYC so they wouldn't hafta switch to hybrids (see footnote), the truth emerged on why it takes mandates to make the switch. The majority of taxi drivers do not own their vehicles. The city sells some fixed numbers of "yellow-cab" licenses (for a few hundred thousand dollars). Most of these are bought up by people who just own the license and the car, but don't run it. They either lease it to someone who then drives it, or pays someone who drives it, and then claims a commission. Either way, they pay for the price of the car, but not the gas. So they stand to gain nothing by switching to hybrids, except paying more for a car. Many of the already hybrid taxis in NYC are ones owned by individuals or cooperatives rather than companies, because, as pointed out, it makes economic sense in the big picture.

Footnote-- the city was sued on the grounds that the hybrids were not safe enough for the number of miles they would drive each year... and they won! I was amazed that Honda and Toyota didn't send swarms of lobbyists converging on the city to block this potentially harmful PR verdict.

Rebelfish said...

So that's the deal with the yellow cars. I don't know if that's the case for the black cars as well, but I assume it's something similar if it also takes a mandate to force them to save money.

Fat Knowledge said...

Hmm, looks like a classic split-incentives problem. I wonder why the people that drive the cars and have to pay for the gasoline aren't willing to pay more to rent a hybrid car rather than a regular one. That would give the incentive back to the owners of the car to upgrade. But, given the conversations that I have had with cabbies, I wouldn't be surprised if they don't grasp how much a hybrid would save them.

Rebelfish said...

Well, the medallion-owning companies are resistant to make the switch. However, NYC wants to require the fleet owners to charge a lower price for leasing their gas-only vehicles to create incentive for them to buy hybrids.

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