New York City's attempt to mandate an all-hybrid cab fleet have been put on hold thanks to federal judge Paul Crotty. A city taxi regulation that was scheduled to take effect on November 1 would have phased in fuel economy rules for new cabs operated in the city. A group of cab operators that account for about a quarter of the city's more than 13,000 vehicle fleet sued, arguing that the hybrid vehicles available today are not suitable for use as cabs due to their size and durability. The cab operators also argued that only the federal government has the authority to set fuel economy rules.

Crotty ruled that the plaintiffs would likely prevail at full trial on the latter argument and thus blocked implementation of the rule. The argument seems dubious because the city rule does not require that manufacturers meet a certain mileage threshold. Instead it says that the vehicles used for a particular purpose must meet certain requirements. Cabs are already required to meet other standards for size and safety.

The rule did not explicitly state that new taxis had to be hybrids but rather that they must achieve at least 25 mpg this year, rising to 30 mpg next year. Since only hybrid vehicles currently meet the rule, that becomes the de facto standard. In spite of the current arguments against the regulation many cab operators have voluntarily moved to hybrid vehicles and over ten percent of the fleet already consists of Ford Escapes, Toyota Camrys and other hybrid models. Ford, Nissan, Toyota and General Motors all recently committed to providing hybrid vehicles to the taxi fleet.

[Source: New York Times]

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