New York City's gas-guzzling, fume-belching yellow taxi cabs will all be replaced with environmentally friendly hybrids with more than twice the fuel mileage by 2012, under an ambitious plan unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on TODAY.
"The idea is to make our cabs more fuel efficient," Bloomberg said Tuesday, appearing on the Plaza with one of 10 Ford Escape hybrids donated to the city by Internet company Yahoo! "If we can do that, we will save the equivalent of more than 32,000 cars on the street."
The move is just one in a growing worldwide movement by large cities to try to reverse, or at least slow, the global warming trend scientists have linked to the prolonged burning of fossil fuels.
"There's no one step that reverse climate change, and reverses the air," New York City Councilman David Yassky, a Brooklyn Democrat who first proposed the move toward hybrids about five years ago, told TODAYShow.com. "But when you do meaningful things one by one, you have a real result. This is a real, meaningful step. It involves 13,000 cabs that currently are some of the worst gas guzzlers on New York City streets, getting around 14 miles per gallon. And they drive 24 hours a day."
Less is more
The most-efficient new hybrids on the market today can travel more than 30 miles per gallon, some above 35 mpg. Replacing the older vehicles should not aversely impact cab owners because they will quickly recoup any investment in the hybrids with lower fuel costs, Yassky said.
"The lifetime cost of owning and operating a cab will be reduced. At today’s gas prices, you make up that difference in the first year in a half. After that, it's gravy," Yassky said.
Bloomberg agreed that any short-term financial hardship cabbies may complain about will be recouped by improved gas mileage. The benefit to the environment is a tangible one, too, the mayor said.
"From now one, drivers will buy these. And the drivers do very well because it costs less to operate these," Bloomberg said. "And it puts less into the air, so our kids will breathe better air."
So far, according to various media reports out of the Big Apple, the taxi cab industry appears willing to work with the city and supports the new technology.
There are now about 400 hybrid vehicles among the 13,000 taxis ferrying passengers around the city and its five boroughs. Under Bloomberg’s plan, that number will increase to 1,000 by October of next year and will grow by about 20 percent each year until all the cabs have been replaced with hybrids by 2012.
“There are an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City,” Bloomberg said. “These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes. This does a lot less. It’s a lot better for all of us."
Hybrid vehicles run on a combination of gasoline and electricity.