Bad week to be a Ford exec. But how many good weeks are they having, really?
The mighty Crown Victoria taxicab is getting run off the road. In favor of hybrids! Mayor Bloomberg is pushing a mostly-hybrid taxi fleet within the next few years. (Technically, any car that gets over 30 mpg in the city qualifies. By the way, we’re surprised the gents at Jalopnik didn’t mention this — they just had 3 straight green-car articles, but missed this one.)
The Crown Vic is the A-1 fleet car for Ford (unless you have a liking for the awful Ford Taurus). It’s used nationwide for pretty much all the taxis and police cruisers on the road today. In NYC, that one model makes up about 90% of the 13,000-strong army of the city’s yellow cabs.
If you live in this country, you’re gonna ride in the back of a Crown Vic, one way or another.
But this ubiquitous land yacht is also an environmental nightmare — especially when it’s a taxi that’s running literally 24 x 7 x 365 with the help of a tag-team of day and night drivers. At a real-world mileage of 10-15 mpg in the city, the EPA gives it a 2 out of 10 on its air-pollution scoring system. The typical Crown Vic is estimated to generate 9+ tons of CO2 emissions a year — the taxicab version doubles or triples that, considering its heavy usage.
Bloomberg says switching to 30+ mpg cars will be a big difference, but of course he does, it’s his idea. How much of a difference would going to hybrids really make? We break it down, after the jump.
By EPA numbers, compared to the Vic’s average of 9.3 tons of CO2 per year:
- The Ford Escape hybrid generates 5-6 tons of CO2 emissions.
- The Prius comes in at well under 4 tons. (But, it’s small for a cab.)
- The Honda Civic hybrid is also under 4 tons, and has more trunk space.
- The Highlander hybrid, bigger and with a bigger engine, puts out over 6 tons — not so great, but still tons better (literally) than the Vic.
- The Camry hybrid: just under 5 tons.
Again, since these will get driven like taxis, meaning up to 50,000 miles a year, the comparison of 4-6 tons vs. 9 tons is really more like 15-20 tons vs. 30 tons a year.
Fuel saved is money saved, so what’s the collective savings of a dramatic mileage increase in a given year?
The answer: 45 to 60 million dollars. (insert Dr.-Evil-style laugh here.)
Phooey, you say? You may Pshaw! all you like. Here’s some relatively painless math: a crown vic taxi getting (let’s say) 13 mpg over (let’s say) 30,000 miles in a year, and paying (let’s say) $3.37 a gallon, ends up putting $7,725 into the tank that year. Double the m.p.g. by switching to the Escape hybrid, and taxi drivers save $3,800+ a year. Triple the m.p.g. by going to a Prius (yes, 39 m.p.g. is a fair real-world number for the Prius), and they save about $5,000.
Multiply the savings over 12,000 cabs and the NYC cab industry stands to save between $45 Million and $60 Million on gas every year. That eases pressure on cabbies, who actually pay the gas, and on regulators, who get caught in the middle of slapfights over rate increases.
$45-60 Million less on gas also means almost 2,000 to 3,000 fewer tanker trucks driving into the NYC. (No points for guessing who doesn’t like that scenario.)
Final note: the whole fleet-sales situation explains a lot of the environmentalist’s frustration with American automakers. Many American makes sell between 30% and 50% of all their cars to fleet buyers. These buyers, like rental-car companies, for example, don’t face the gas consequences of the cars they buy, or if they do, they don’t feel the pinch as sharply as retail buyers do. It’s just a budget item, if they aren’t passing the cost onto the driver/renter. So they don’t care that much about mileage, or pollution, or innovative design. (Somebody explain how else the fugly Taurus makes it on the open market.) Companies without “easy” fleet sales to protect them have been more sensitive to customer concerns, and are now running rings around the Big 3.
A bitter pill to swallow for Ford, but good medicine in the long run; it needs to compete, not rest on guaranteed sales.