Joining other, existing initiatives to move the U.S. taxi fleet across to hybrid vehicles, the Cleantech Venture Network has launched the Cleantech Innovation Institute (CII), which will work to reduce or remove existing barriers to the change-over. Already, a number of major U.S. cities have started to move their taxis over to hybrids with San Francisco being the first in early 2005. New York and Chicago have also announced incentives, including discounted licenses, for taxi owners to move to hybrids.

One of the most popular hybrid vehicles for taxis is the Ford Escape Hybrid which gets 36 mpg / 6.5 L per 100 km around the city and runs entirely off the internal battery pack at speeds less than 25 mph / 40 km/h - a huge plus for heavy traffic emissions. The Escape Hybrid is also a roomy vehicle with generous passenger and luggage space. In June 2006, Ford undertook a nationwide tour to promote the use of its environmentally friendly, petrol–electric SUVs in taxi fleets.

The 196,000 taxis in North America drive an average of ten time more than regular passenger vehicles and could be saving well over $1,000 per month on fuel if they were hybrids. A problem for taxi owners though is that leasing companies wont lease hybrids for taxi use because of the huge miles they drive. To solve this problem, the CII is in talks with GE Finance to negotiate leasing hybrids at a higher, but still cost-effective rate.

Analysis: It seems like every time I get in a taxi it gets stuck in traffic and we just sit there for ages going nowhere while the metre keeps going up and up. It's almost like taxis are drawn to traffic problems. What a great move then to be running off battery only at speeds less than 25 mph, which by my calculations would be about 85 percent of the time. No hybrid leasing is tricky for taxi owners though, so good work CII for trying to solve this problem.

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[Source: Environmental Leader]

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