GreenNYC - Hybrid Taxi Man


Meet Rodolphe Lafontant New York TaxiCab number 436765 operating in New York City as a taxi driver for 19 years! He is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlanNYC whereby all New York taxi cabs will be hybrid by 2012, making it the “the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis on the planet”. Lafontant appreciates the economical benefits of a Hybrid car, in this case the Ford Escape claims is could save individual drivers around $10,000 a year, but he doesn’t like the claustrophobic driver’s seat. He is literally enclosed by a plexiglass container that separates him from his passengers, and while this might give him some sense of security (not that he can’t fend for himself as big as he is!), it worries him more what will happen in case of a side impact. While Lafontant will be happy to know that his Ford Escape Hybrid scored a top 5 out of 5 stars on the side impact crash test we have found no safety reports on crash tests performed with the plexiglass cabin installed. Also, while the old taxicabs are known for their durability he worries about what costs he might incur in maintenance and up-keep.

As a passenger we noticed that there is a little more room height-wise, but less width-wise making accommodating three adults in the back a little intimate. The infotainment system is really quite good with realtime navigation system that lets you know where you are in addition to suggesting restaurants, points of interest at your destination, and displaying your tariff. You can choose from the news, fashion, and even lifestyle channels to keep you up to the minute, which in New York sometimes means the difference at an interview or important business lunch. These are the details which Mayor Bloomberg hopes will separate New York from other cities worldwide and make it an even greater, greener place to live…perhaps then the infotainment could tell us how much we saved by using a Hybrid taxi?

One of over 380 hybrid taxis now in service on New York’s streets the Ford Escape Hybrid achieves an astounding 34 miles/gallon in the city compared to the 20 gallons less that the traditional Ford Crown Victoria’s does at 14/15miles/gallon. Whether or not Mayor Bloomberg had a magic ball telling him almost a year ago that oil prices would hit unprecedented highs of over $130 per barrel we cannot say, but he sure did the taxi driver’s of New York a favour by forcing them sooner than later to comply with emission cutting regulations. Starting October 2008 all new taxis must achieve at least 25 miles per gallon, this minimum will increase to 30 miles in 2009 and subsequently all taxi cabs must be hybrid by October 2012.

Of course this green move by the bustling city of New York is but a small portion of the larger picture. Where taxis are concerned the PlanNYC provides for a 50% cut in emissions within the next 10 years saving the environment 215,000 tons of carbon emissions. Mayor Bloomberg’s master plan also provides that the city will cut its emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, of which cars and trucks are responsible for 20% at 2005 levels. This is an amazingly positive ambition given that if New York were to continue with ‘business-as-usual’ emissions would actually increase by 27% by 2030. With an expected growth on 1 million residents by 2030 and the impending gloomy climate changes it is imperative that a city surrounded by so much water should take action on every level sooner than later. There is much more at stake than just turning the yellow fleet of cabs a greener shade but for now Mayor Bloomberg knows that the only way to achieve any change is one person at a time, like Rodolphe Lafontant.