Print 64 comment(s) - last by Zirconium.. on May 29 at 8:19 AM

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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RE: Probably not a bad move
By HaZaRd2K6 on 5/23/2007 11:00:10 AM , Rating: 1
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.

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
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 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.

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.


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 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 on 5/23/2007 1:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
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.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki

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