Three major auto manufacturers are promising to reserve 300 new hybrid vehicles each month exclusively for New York City as it replaces its entire fleet of yellow cabs.
Nissan North America, General Motors and Ford said Wednesday they are setting aside the environmentally friendly cars to help the city reach its goal of making all yellow cabs green by 2012. Today there are about 13,000 cabs on the street, including more than 1,300 hybrids.
New city regulations require that any new cab coming into service after Oct. 1, 2008, achieve a fuel efficiency standard of 25 miles per gallon. The following year, that increases to 30 mpg.
The standard yellow cab in use today, the Ford Crown Victoria, gets only about 14 mpg. But some hybrid models, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, achieve as much as 36.
The city government does not own the yellow cabs but sells licenses to drivers and operators, who must purchase vehicles that meet the specifications of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Some taxi fleet owners had recently complained to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration that there would not be enough hybrids available on the market for all drivers to meet the city's fuel efficiency regulations by the deadline.
Bloomberg said the help from the auto companies now guarantees that won't be a problem.
"We want to ensure there is more than enough supply to meet the demand for hybrid taxis," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Nissan has committed to making available 200 of its Nissan Altima hybrids per month, General Motors is providing 50 of its Chevrolet Malibus and Ford is offering 50 Ford Escape hybrids, the city said.
Both the city and taxi driver advocacy groups acknowledge that drivers or fleet owners will have to spend more money upfront when purchasing hybrid vehicles but point out that they will save money on fuel. The Taxi and Limousine Commission estimates that a hybrid cab saves a driver $6,500 per year.
The life of a New York City taxi is typically about three to five years because the commission requires all vehicles to be retired within a certain time frame.