New York City Mandates Greener Black Cars
By Kevin Miller
The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) voted unanimously today to approve a regulation requiring that any Black Car coming in to service on or after January 1, 2009, must have a fuel economy rating of at least 25 MPG city. Starting in January, 2010, that rating will rise to 30 MPG city. The regulation also includes a requirement that all Black Cars be retired after six years of service, which means that the entire fleet will meet at least 25 MPG by 2014.
Approximately 10,000 Black Cars are licensed to operate in New York City. The biggest difference between Black Cars and Taxis is that Taxis are hailed on the street, whereas Black Cars are not. The iconic NYC Black Car is a Lincoln Town Car, which is rated 15 MPG in the city running on gasoline (the E85 version is rated just 11 MPG).
Because of the new fuel economy requirements for black cars, the Town Car is likely to be replaced by vehicles like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, or Ford Escape Hybrid. Because the Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura Hybrids are rated only 24 MPG in the city, and the Chevrolet Suburban Hybrid is rated 21 MPG city, those vehicles are not eligible for use as Black Cars. According to the TLC, Black cars 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.
In order to offset the cost of upgrading their vehicles when they reach mandatory retirement age, the TLC is setting up a fund to help Black Car operators finance the higher payments on their more expensive vehicles. Of course, some of the additional vehicle cost will be offset by the fact that drivers will be buying around half the amount of fuel currently used by Town Cars.
Unfortunately for passengers, none of the eligible cars noted above is as spacious or comfortable as the currently-used Lincoln Town Car. Until a manufacturer decides to build a large, comfortable car with an efficient hybrid drivetrain, the Black Car will be a little less spacious than it has historically been. In other words, it will be a little less black, and quite a bit more green.
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