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Ford Escape Hybrid
Hybrid fever strikes New York City

Given the stop and go nature of traffic in New York City, the promise of increased fuel efficiency from hybrids is too good to pass up. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday on the "Today" show that every yellow cab will be a hybrid by the year 2012.

There are roughly 13,000 taxis roaming city streets (90 percent of which are gas guzzling Ford Crown Victorias). According to Bloomberg, 20 percent of the existing yellow cab fleet will be replaced each year until all are running on hybrid power. Currently, there are only 375 hybrid taxis on the road in NYC.

"There's an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City obviously, so it makes a real big difference," said Bloomberg. "These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes; this does a lot less. It's a lot better for all of us."

There are currently eight vehicles on the city's "approved" list when it comes to hybrid vehicles to be used as yellow cabs: the Ford Escape Hybrid; the Honda Accord Hybrid and Civic Hybrid; the Lexus RX400h; the Saturn Vue Green Line; and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and Prius. As more manufacturers roll out fuel efficient hybrids, the number of possible candidates is sure to increase. Vehicles like the Saturn Aura Green Line and rumored Ford Fusion hybrid are likely to join the list.

Ford Crown Victorias are rated at 15 MPG in city driving. A Ford Escape Hybrid, however, is rated at 31 MPG in the city according to the new 2008 EPA estimates. Hybrids like the Camry and Prius are even more fuel efficient at 33 MPG and 48 MPG respectively.

The Ford Escape Hybrid has already seen extensive use in San Francisco. Taxi operators reported on their vehicles once the 100,000 mile mark was surpassed. According to the operators, fuel savings compared to the Crown Victoria were between $20 to $31 per shift. Air conditioning costs were also roughly half that of Crown Victorias. Another plus was that the brakes lasted twice as long due to the hybrid system's regenerative braking feature taking a load off the traditional braking system. Most importantly, there were no complaints of poor rear legroom from passengers.

Yahoo Inc. has already committed to donate 10 Ford Escape Hybrid taxis according to Bloomberg.

When all is said and done, the switch to a completely hybrid yellow cab fleet will save each taxi operator over $10,000 USD per year in fuel costs while also cutting total carbon emissions by 200,000 tons per year.



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Probably not a bad move
By FITCamaro on 5/23/2007 8:31:43 AM , Rating: 3
With gas skyrocketing weekly now this probably isn't a bad move. While I'm not a huge believer that hybrids are the savior of us all, for an industry like taxi's this will pay off in the long run for them since they do nothing but city driving and sit in traffic all day. So when the batteries die on them, they'll have the money to replace them. Of course then the problem is what to do with all those batteries.




RE: Probably not a bad move
By James Holden on 5/23/2007 8:35:54 AM , Rating: 1
In my opinion, after all the Hybrid bullshit that's floating around, this is one of the few moves that makes sense. Hybrids really only benefit on urban streets anyway.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By RogueSpear on 5/23/2007 8:46:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Hybrids really only benefit on urban streets anyway.

Not quite true. Normally all of my driving is urban and I get 50MPG. About twice a year though a client of mine will need work several times a week for a couple of weeks. This involves a lot of expressway type driving (50 - 60 MPH speeds). During those times I get 55MPG. Now the other thing is your distance of travel. Normally I drive 5 miles to and from work. This is not enough time for the ICE to warm up enough to hit peak efficiency. Perhaps if my drive was 15 miles each way I'd see higher MPG in urban driving.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By FITCamaro on 5/23/2007 9:14:32 AM , Rating: 1
You're getting 55MPG on the highway because your motor is tiny. A non hybrid with the same size engine would get the same mileage, maybe better since it wouldn't have the extra weight of the hybrid system. The hybrid system does nothing on the highway in its current form.

I know with GMs Volt concept though it would because the gas engine is only used to recharge the battery. So both would be working. Of course the issue there is does it take the same or less gas to keep the battery charged on the highway as it would just to propel the car with the gas engine.

As I said, my biggest problem with hybrids is that sure, they get better mileage. But then instead of emissions we're throwing out like 50-100 lbs of batteries every 10 years at least. And both nickel cadmium (sp?) and lithium ion batteries are both insanely toxic. Not to mention the production facilities that build said batteries create ecological wastelands in the surrounding area from the toxic chemicals.

Personally I think bio-diesels are a better alternative but the issues there are producing enough bio-diesel and the higher cost of diesel engines(which I guess is equivalent to the higher cost of a hybrid system). The added benefit of using bio-diesels to me is that diesel's are normally (or easily) turbocharged and you can lay the boost on those things like crazy since the block is built to take it. With a typical turbo-diesel truck, you can easily increase your horsepower and torque by 50-75%.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By goku on 5/23/2007 9:44:08 AM , Rating: 2
nickle cadmium? Wth are you talking about? Who uses those anyways? It's either NiMh or li-ion, both things that are far more environmentally friendly.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Spoelie on 5/23/2007 5:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
li-ion in a car is a baaaaad idea
even tho it has a higher energy density, and there is some experimentation with it, I'd prefer other technologies get priority. Read the wiki article on the disadvantages of li-ion


RE: Probably not a bad move
By dajeepster on 5/24/2007 12:03:42 PM , Rating: 2
yeah... just imagine if they get recalled... I can see it now, world comes to a hault because of the Li-ion batteries are recalled because of possible explosions when racing (there will always be street racing going on)...hmm.. and that is also assuming that every vehicle (highly unlikely cause technology is forever changing) is using li-ion (i wonder if they would be made by sony..)


RE: Probably not a bad move
By WCPMFUN on 5/23/2007 8:36:00 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
It's either NiMh or li-ion, both things that are far more environmentally friendly.


I do not know too much about specifically about lithium toxicity or lithium pollution issues.

I do know based on experience that NiMh batteries although better than NiCd or lead acid batteries are still no friend to the environment or the workers who process this material from mine to finished product.

Nickel is semi-toxic. The material can cause a wide array of problems if ingested or inhaled into the body. Medical bills from nickel poisoning add up quickly. In the U.S. these injuries would normally be covered under Workers Compensation. I am not sure how Canada (one of the leading nickel producers) deals with this issue. I presume their universal healthcare system foots the bill. The electrolytes can also be hazadous if improperly stored or disposed of.

There is also the disposal issue. I have not seen too many studies on the recycling rate of these batteries. I know of many places that accept lead acid batteries ... I believe Best Buy and Radioshack will both accept now accept NiCd and NiMh batteries now. At one point I know Radioshack only accepted NiCd though.

Anyways there are shed loads of scientific and industrial studies available online or easily accessible from your public or university library if you are interested in this subject.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By HaZaRd2K6 on 5/23/2007 11:00:10 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Personally I think bio-diesels are a better alternative


One thing I don't think anyone has talked about with regards to biodiesel is that if entire fleets of cars (like NYC taxis) started using biodiesel, then it'll start competing with a food source. And one thing you NEVER, EVER want to happen is to have a fuel source competing for price with a food source.

What happens if farmers decide they'll get more money for biodiesel then for food? Where will they sell to? Biodiesel. Granted, it isn't a major source of food in North America (corn, that is), but it's still food and it'll be competing with a fuel source.

So as much as people like to laud biodiesel, the whole issue needs to be examined much more carefully before we start mass-producing biodiesel-powered vehicles.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By BladeVenom on 5/23/2007 12:00:25 PM , Rating: 1
Corn prices have doubled in the last year.
http://www.charlotte.com/409/story/132113.html


RE: Probably not a bad move
By SoCalBoomer on 5/23/2007 12:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah - examined like Brazil did. . .

We're subsidizing the farming industry and tons of potential fuel mass is just sitting there.

Use it.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Lonyo on 5/23/2007 1:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
I read a report in the FT saying that corn is one of the least efficient ways to produce ethanol from crops, while sugar cane is one of the most efficient (I think it was 4x as efficient in terms of energy required).

Also, to import a barrel of ethanol from Brazil costs about half what is required to produce ethanol from corn in the US.

So basically the US is subsidising an inefficient and expensive way of manufacturing ethanol, rather than going for the cheaper import option from its nearby neighbour.
The same is also true of the EU, it would cost half as much to import ethanol, although I'm not wholly sure what the fuel/ethanol situation is, and there is also more focus on diesel power in Europe.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By bombledmonk on 5/24/2007 9:48:05 AM , Rating: 2
Switchgrass is by far one of the best ways to get ethanol. The Positive energy gains are upwardds of 350% while corn is only 22%. Heck it can even grow on crappy land and takes little to know fertilizer.

And Algae is one of the best ways to harvest biodiesel if they can ramp up production. You can get 10000 gallons a year off of 1 acre vs 48 gal for soybeans.

These are the ideas that need to be expanded on and researched. They will be the future though, you can bet on that.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By PitViper007 on 5/24/2007 10:31:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also, to import a barrel of ethanol from Brazil costs about half what is required to produce ethanol from corn in the US.


quote:
So basically the US is subsidising an inefficient and expensive way of manufacturing ethanol, rather than going for the cheaper import option from its nearby neighbour.


The whole point of using ethanol as a fuel source is to 1) give us a renewable fuel source, and 2)reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers. The resulting wastes from burning ethanol as a fuel have been proven to be worse for the environment than actually burning gasoline, so that isn't even an issue with ethanol, not to mention that the gas mileage is lower with an ethanol based fuel.

http://www.businessweek.com/autos/content/apr2006/...

I do agree with you though that there are much more efficient ways of producing ethanol than by using corn. You put forward (as does the author of the article I linked to) that sugar cane is much more efficient. While I agree with that, sugar cane isn't grown in the US in any great quantity, negating being self reliant on fuel. Sugar beets however are, and I think that you could get ethanol out of them as efficiently as you could from sugar cane, since there's about the same amount of sugar in the two. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know for sure, but it makes sense to me.

PitViper


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Rovemelt on 5/24/2007 11:19:26 AM , Rating: 3
Nothing good will come from using food in an inefficient process to make ethanol to move cars around. I'm pleased to see some different thinking on fuel alternatives, but it's simply too energy inefficient from start to finish. We just have to stop dragging with us an extra 2000lbs of metal everywhere we go.

Electric vehicles are significantly more efficient than any fuel-burning vehicles out there, but will vary in CO2 emissions depending on the greenhouse gas emissions from the power company. Ultimately, when power plants are made more greenhouse gas friendly, electric vehicles will be the answer.

Batteries can be recycled. The environmental effects of recycling batteries is something we can overcome and the energy cost is small compared to the extra gas burned in an inefficient vehicle.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By spluurfg on 5/23/2007 12:37:29 PM , Rating: 2
Very true -- the ethanol subsidies seem on the whole not economically sound, as they are much less energy-productive than sugar cane ethanol. Corn futures on the CBOT are also much higher than they used to be. This is especially worrying since foods tend to be at least partial substitutes in the economy, so driving up the price of corn may drive up the price of other foods in general.

However, there is hope that non-food crops can be used to produce fuel... notably trees or grass. However, I suppose then we'd worry about environmental destruction, increased paper prices, and decreased oxygen production (though most of the world's O2 is produced in the ocean), and the technology is years from being economically feasible. I suppose there's just no free lunch, and no free gas.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By masher2 (blog) on 5/23/2007 1:11:30 PM , Rating: 2
> "Granted, it isn't a major source of food in North America (corn, that is).."

Corn is a major source of food in North America. Granted in the USA, we may not eat a lot of kernel corn, but corn sweeteners are in nearly everything from soft drinks to bread. Corn oil and corn starch are also used in countless food applications.

Finally, corn itself is the most important feedstock for meat production. When you eat beef or chicken, you're essentially eating the corn those animals were fed throughout their lives.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 5/23/2007 1:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Granted, it isn't a major source of food in North America (corn, that is)..

It is a major source of food in Mexico.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By HaZaRd2K6 on 5/23/2007 8:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. What I meant is that it's not such a huge source of food in Canada and the US in its raw form (as in fresh corn, corn on the cob, frozen corn, etc.). I do recognize its use in different products as oil and starch and its use as feed for livestock, but I meant its use as food for human consumption.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By RogueSpear on 5/23/2007 11:13:28 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
And both nickel cadmium (sp?) and lithium ion batteries are both insanely toxic.

This right here tells me you have no idea what you're talking about and simply want to spread FUD. If you're not even aware of what type of batteries that are primarily used in a hybrid car, then I suspect you also know little about the recycling program Toyota and others are using.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Archmaille on 5/23/2007 2:39:53 PM , Rating: 1
Problem with the Volt concept is that it is a very inefficient design. You take chemical energy (gas) convert it into mechanical energy (mechanical engine) convert that into electrical energy (generator) finally converting that into mechanical energy (electric motor) in the end WTF mate? How is it more efficient to take something that is already in the form of mechanical energy and convert it several times over finally arriving back at mechanical energy? GM seems to be confused as to the purpose of a hybrid vehicle. The idea of using the breaking system to recharge the batteries is a great idea since you would normally lose that power to heat energy, but with this design you are going through several extra steps that only serve to create more times where you lose power to heat energy.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Hoser McMoose on 5/23/2007 5:15:56 PM , Rating: 2
Initially it might seem quite odd, but the idea actually works fairly well and has been proven in trains at least for some time.

The problem with an internal combustion engine in a car is that it isn't very good when you operate it outside it's peak rev range. A lot of the complexity and inefficiencies of the engine are built around solving this.

The Volt simplifies things, the engine runs at only a very specific RPM rate. This allows you to greatly simplify the design of the engine and make it much more efficient at the same time. They then also take out the entire linkage to the wheels and remove the need for a transmission. Regenerative breaking is still used, as in current hybrids, and they also add the option to plug the car in to recharge the batteries.

Does it work? Well according to GM's numbers, yes! Ignoring the plug-in aspect, they're claiming about 970km (600 mile) from a 45L (12 gallon) tank on the highway. That works out to a rather impressive 4.6L/100km (50mpg) on a car with a 160 horsepower engine. This puts it right on par with the Prius which has only a 110hp engine.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Hoser McMoose on 5/23/2007 5:27:12 PM , Rating: 2
A couple additional points with the Volt. In the early form they're planning on using a gasoline/ethanol flex-fuel generator. Part of the beauty of this setup though is that the internal combustion engine connected to the generator can be easily swapped.

Dropping in a really nice tiny turbo-diesel engine would REALLY boost the potential for this vehicle. The fuel consumption could easily drop by 35-35% (on a by-volume basis), while they could avoid a lot of the air pollution problems caused by diesel engines. A lot of the air pollution from diesels (vs. gasoline engines) can be avoided by running the engine at a constant RPM.

Another, slightly more out-there, option would be an HCCI engine. This is a gasoline engine that uses compression for ignition instead of a spark. The idea is not entirely unlike diesel engine and benefits from a lot of the same fuel efficiency benefits, but it is not the same process. This hasn't been implemented in vehicles yet because, again, there are problems when running at variable RPMs. Fixing the engine to a single constant RPM would avoid those problems allowing for an even more fuel efficient design. Beyond being just fuel efficient though, HCCI engines also do a VERY good job at getting complete combustion of all fuel. This results in significantly less air pollution coming out the tailpipe.

And if you wanted to be REALLY wacky (and somewhat pointless) you could drop in a fuel cell and run the thing off hydrogen. In fact, this is exactly how all hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are likely to operate, though that's likely to result in lower efficiencies (well to wheel) as compared to even the plain old gasoline engine of the prototype.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Zirconium on 5/29/2007 8:19:48 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct. Most of the energy wasted in a car comes during acceleration, when the engine is not running within its optimum range, and during breaking, when energy is just flat out lost to heat in the breaks. The Volt concept attempts to solve these using constant rev ranges and regenerative breaking. The option to plug in is very intriguing as well, since a lot of people that I know tend to do most driving within a 5 mile radius (i.e. to the grocery store and back).


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Spoelie on 5/23/2007 5:22:42 PM , Rating: 2
the extra cost of a diesel engine over a gasoline one is nowhere near the cost of the whole hybrid drivetrain. but the rest of your comment is right on ;)


RE: Probably not a bad move
By TheCurve314 on 5/24/2007 1:32:40 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
A non hybrid with the same size engine would get the same mileage, maybe better since it wouldn't have the extra weight of the hybrid system.


Don't you think the low drag coefficient of his Prius would have an impact, especially at higher speeds like in the situation he describes?

When you say "size," I assume you mean engine displacement. Consider the Toyota Yaris, Scion xA, and Scion xB. They all use 1.5L inline-four gasoline engines, just like the Prius. All are 2006 models. The Yaris, xA, and xB all weigh hundreds of pounds less than the Prius. According to fueleconomy.gov, this is how their highway numbers are estimated:

Prius - 51 MPG; Yaris - 39 MPG; xA - 38 MPG; xB - 34 MPG

Despite similar engine displacement and lower weight, the Prius has a notable advantage over the other models. Even with the revised EPA Prius value of 45 MPG highway, this is still a fair improvement (this hasn't stopped RogueSpear from exceeding both numbers, however). In light of what you said, how can this be explained?

quote:
And both nickel cadmium (sp?) and lithium ion batteries are both insanely toxic.


As others have pointed out, Nickel-Cadmium is usually not applicable to the vehicles being discussed here. To my knowledge, GM, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Nissan are all using Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries in their hybrids. NiMH batteries are not perfect, but they are far, far less environmentally harmful to the environment than NiCd ones are. A fair portion of NiMH batteries can be recycled relatively easily. In the case of Toyota (if I remember right) they will pay you $200.00 if you send back the battery to be recycled, and they recycle every single part of the battery, no matter how small -- no landfills.

quote:
Not to mention the production facilities that build said batteries create ecological wastelands in the surrounding area from the toxic chemicals.


I'm having trouble finding evidence of this on the internet. It would be immensely appreciated if you could share your sources on this one. I found a news article that describes something similar to your claim, but it seems to have been removed because it wasn't true.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By masher2 (blog) on 5/24/2007 9:49:20 AM , Rating: 2
> "Despite similar engine displacement and lower weight, the Prius has a notable advantage over the other models"

The engines in the Prius and the other models you cite have similar displacement, but not similar output. The Scion engines have been tuned for output rather than maximal efficiency. As a result, the xB garners 108hp from its 1.5l engine, whereas the Prius only outputs 78hp.

His primary point is that hybrid technology adds nothing to highway mileage. Is that correct? Strictly speaking, it is. But in practical terms, its not quite true. A 78hp family car would be unnacceptable for most consumers. But when you couple that with another 60-70 hp from an electric motor (which excels at low-rev torque) you get a vehicle that accelerates quickly from a stop, but still gets excellent highway mpg.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By TheGreek on 5/25/2007 11:26:43 AM , Rating: 2
The Honda Accord V6 hybrid is capable of shutting off 3 cylinders under light load.

EPA Estimates for the hybrid are 28/35.

EPA Estimates for the regular V6 automatic are 20/29.

For reference the 4 cylinder auto is 24/34.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By GlassHouse69 on 5/24/2007 9:10:58 AM , Rating: 2
this is true. a small, 3 cylinder engine from europe would get the same gas mileage.

the only difference is that the hybrid destroyed the environment more than a 10mpg hummer during its production.

ahhh... self righteous ignorance about that fact is bliss!


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Rovemelt on 5/24/2007 11:27:36 AM , Rating: 2
The Hummer would do far more environmental damage over the course of its lifetime than the Prius due to the Hummer's poor gas mileage.

ahhh... self righteous ignorance about that fact is bliss!


RE: Probably not a bad move
By TheGreek on 5/25/2007 10:56:54 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention all the extra energy to build that POS.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Spivonious on 5/23/2007 9:54:05 AM , Rating: 2
What car, Prius?


RE: Probably not a bad move
By RogueSpear on 5/23/2007 11:15:28 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
What car, Prius?

Yes, a 2005 to be exact.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By DocDraken on 5/23/2007 11:12:38 AM , Rating: 2
And with a regular small turbo diesel you'd get the same or better mileage. All without having to use expensive (both to buy and repair) and complicated electrical systems, batteries, motors etc.

The only major downside is particle pollution and slightly higher NOx, but a lot of European manufacturers now put on particle filters as well as extra efficient catalytic converters. There are A LOT of small turbo diesels driving around Europe getting 50+ MPG in mixed driving.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Archmaille on 5/23/07, Rating: 0
RE: Probably not a bad move
By hubajube on 5/23/2007 3:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Problem with this is that diesel will one day run out
As will gasoline. Both gas and diesel are petroleum products. What's your point here?


RE: Probably not a bad move
By DocDraken on 5/23/2007 3:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
Better to immediately lower our oil consumption as much as possible because then we have more time to find a viable alternative until it runs out. Twidling our thumbs and using either gas guzzlers or unviable gadgetmobiles with little benefit except as a political statement, like the hybrids, is not going to help.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Spoelie on 5/23/2007 5:29:02 PM , Rating: 2
The things is that oil gets used for a lot of stuff other than propelling cars. Plastics, medicine, ... are mostly based on products of oil refineries. If oil runs out, we lose them as well, which is why it is imperative to lower the amount that gets used for cars.


RE: Probably not a bad move
By Hoser McMoose on 5/23/2007 5:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
Better yet, make it a diesel hybrid and get the best of both worlds! Sadly next to no one is producing such a beast (PSA is the only company I know of that has even shown a prototype).

For New York though, diesels still aren't very good for the reason you mentioned, air pollution. Even with those particle filters, extra efficient catalytic converters and low sulfur diesel fuel you're STILL looking at more air pollution from a diesel than a good gasoline car (though if you're just trying to beat a Crown Vic. then it might not be so tough).


By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 5/25/2007 11:10:39 AM , Rating: 2
Well, I own a Camry Hybrid *sniff* and I can tell you that I went from two tanks of premium a week for my old Solara V6, to less than one tank of regular per week for the Camry - a much larger car. So there is something to it.

I average about 39-40mpg in MOSTLY highway driving (75+ miles round trip per day commute on mostly I95 in Maryland). I have driven more than 400 miles on highway trips at normal speeds (70+) and have averaged about 40mpg.

While it might not save us all, it is at least not b*llsh*t. I can attest to that.

If you go by the car magazines, which THRASH the cars they get since they are strictly performance testers, then they usually get a lot less, about 32mpg for the Camry Hybrid *sniff* in Car and Driver, for example. But it is in how you drive. As I say, normal mostly highway commutes are about 39mpg.

But consider, how do NYC taxi drivers drive?! City mileage or not, their fuel economy will still suck.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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