Converting NA 200,000 taxis to hybrids would save $75 billion in fuel by 2016

Prius against the sky

There are some 200,000 taxis in North America: 25,000 in Canada and more than 170,100 in America. Each taxi drives 10 times the distance of an average vehicle.

If each taxi was a hybrid, like my Toyota Prius, North American cab drivers would not only be reducing fuel usage by almost 3 billion litres a year, but the average taxi driver would save between $2,000 and $2,500 every month.

The industry as a whole would save more than $75 billion in fuel costs over a decade – and help achieve that much more energy security. More importantly, the most advanced hybrids reduce smog emissions by more than 70%.

Because they drive 10 times the distance of an average vehicle, converting 200,000 taxis to hybrids would have the same impact as converting two million vehicles – and reduce the smog of these two million vehicle equivalents by 70%. Because taxi fleets are operating 24 hours a day they create more smog than any of type of vehicle.

Having the majority of taxis as hybrids would accelerate the adoption rate of hybrids among average consumers. Taxis would serve as demonstration project to introduce average consumers hybrids technology.

How do many taxi owners buy their cars? At auction -- by buying second hand police cruisers -- vehicles that have oversided engines for chases. In other words the worst vehicles for high use taxis. The owner will be the car for $5,000 at auction but it will use $75,000 of fuel in the first two years.

Looking at the situation differently -- buying a $30,000 hybrid new that uses less than half the fuel would mean a net saving in the first 18 month.

In San Francisco the Crown Victoria gets 10-12 miles per gallon (actual use not fuel mileage ratings). San Fran is very hilly so vehicles get lower mileage than they are rated for. By contrast the Prius gets 40 miles per gallon (actual use). So cab drivers can cut their fuel cost by up to 75% if they have been driving a second hand Crown Victoria which was formerly a police chase vehicle.

Childhood Asthma in Cities
One in every five children in Canada will develop asthma before reaching adulthood. In 1970 the rate of childhood asthma was less than one in 50! Smog is a significant problem in many North America cities.

And why will one in every five children develop childhood asthma? It is simple. Every year, 4.3 billion kilograms of respiratory toxins are injected into the air in Canada alone. Smog from idling cars and coal fired electricity generation plants are the two main culprits.

In 2005, Toronto experienced more smog days than any other year on record. In fact , the smog was so bad that the Ontario Medical Association in June 2005 issued a report outlining that 5,800 people will die prematurely every year in Ontario because of smog related illness; there will be 17,000 emergency room visits in already overcrowded ERs, and it's going to cost taxpayers $7.8 billion due to respiratory illness.

What’s Holding this Change Back?
Since taxis are a primary contributor to smog and smog to illness, why are all taxis not hybrids? Simple: in municipalities taxi regulations require a certain number of interior cubic feet for a car model to qualify as a taxi. These are typically very large cars – even thought the vast majority of taxi fares are single person trips. The Prius the hybrid with the best fuel efficiency fall below the size requirement.

The Solution?
We need to bring together companies like Toyota, finance companies, heads of major taxi associations, along with the mayors of key cities and a limited number of key state and federal representatives to serve as a working group to catalyze change and accelerating the adoption of hybrid taxis.

Finance companies typically won’t lease cars to taxi drivers because they drive too many kilometers per year. By creating a special lease of say $1,000 a month instead of a consumer lease at $400 a month, the monthly fuel savings will be greater than the lease payments (With gas savings at $2,000+ per month cabbies still get to pocket more than $1,000 a month in fuel savings).

With hybrid car makers being certaint that demand will rise through efforts like this above, this woudl accelerate the construction of additional hybrid plants in North America without large incentives.

This is part of a multi-part series highlighting how we can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions at no cost. In the above example the taxi industry can save $50 billion of fuel cost over a decade and finance taxi fleet conversion to hybrids immediately without any captial cost -- by using a leasing model.

This series began because during Earth Day week, the federal Conservative Minister of the Environment testified before the Senate Environmental Committee that meeting the Kyoto carbon emissions targets would “manufacture a recession.” This multi-part series of posta present hard business cases will dispel this as pure myth.

For articles from other sources on this topic see:
NYC's Yellow Cabs Going Green at

Red Herring at
Toronto Star at

Stay tuned for Part IV: Fuel Efficiency Standards could Eliminate the Need for all North American Oil Imports

Other posts in this series:
Vampire power: How to Save $6 Billion a year at no cost at

Shattering the Myth: Achieving Kyoto Targets will cost us at


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Savings in fuel might not be as great as you estimate.

Lambton Kent Middlesex EDA (SW Ontario)
If our typical Crown Vic or Impala is made a hybrid, its fuel consumption will be much lower, but are you using Prius mileage in your estimates? I don't think either of those larger cars will achieve that level of economy.

If we were to switch to cars like a Toyota Matrix, not even a hybrid, we could save almost as much as making the full size car hybrid, could we not? So about half of the savings come from downsizing, half from hybrid technology?

It would seem to me that urban delivery vehicles of all sorts, not just taxis, would justify about the same treatment as far as hybrid benefits.

Lambton Kent Middlesex EDA (SW Ontario)

Vancouver cabs ...

Apparently the market is able to figure these easy things out themselves. See:

Of course it will help to accelerate individuals or small businesses to change by the government taking action and introducing incentives to achieve savings in GHG. Now there is a federal incentive of $2000 and in some case provincial incentives. Consumers will naturally start buying hybrid vehicles especially with rising fuel prices due to the pressures of being on the wrong side of the peak oil curve.

I'm betting, the life cycle cost of a Civic Hybid vs a regualr Civic is less once the fuel cost savings are factored in.

Let's see 4.7 L/100km for the hybrid, 8.2 L/100km for the regular. Difference is 3.5 L / 100 km or $3.50 (with gas just at $1 per liter - could go higher!) / 100 km. Let's say 200,000 km. So that means 2000 * $3.5 or $7,000 savings. Plus the incentive of $2,000 = $9,000 saving. Guess what the difference between the hybrid and the regular is about $9,000 - so yes it is a wash from a dollars and cents perspective.

But (as the Mastercard commercial say) "GHG saving - priceless."

And if this is a cab and goes 300,000 km - the savings are there even without the incentives. We don't need complex arrangements to achieve what common sense will flock to. The "Tipping Point" is somewhere around 250,000 km based on 3.5 L / 100 km savings.

So this will take care of itself ... same as CFL bulbs.

There is really no need to ban incandescents when CFLs cost less once you factor in the energy costs - people aren't stupid - they just need a little education - and Home Depot is doing a good job for us on the CFL bulb issue.

The current Conservative (and likely a Liberal) government is fooling us into thinking it is taking action by incenting things that would already happen even without their help.

What we really need to do is stop the subsidization of climate change by banning tarsands exploitation. Let's keep our energies focussed on the real big problems. Technology and the marketplace will take care of the relatively smaller issues.

Go Sens Go.

Rob Brooks
Hull-Aylmer EDA

Would that mean no hybrid subsidy?

Lambton Kent Middlesex EDA (SW Ontario)
If we make it even more costly to waste fuel, much more costly, and likewise for coal, (all fossil fuels except arctic methane hydrate) such that all of the benefit from going hybrid comes from savinga on fuels, and those exced current benefits for going hybrid even with a tiny car like a civic, then we may or may not get rapid conversion to hybrids. If the market can find ways to do better, we might see the demise of gas-electric hybrids, But the important thing is that we are not here to sell one solution, hybrids, but to tip the scales viciously toward reduced fossil fuel consumption. Any solution that accomplishes that is welcome to competer.

Lambton Kent Middlesex EDA (SW Ontario)

NYC Cabs are next to convert

Announced today 13,000 New York City Cabs to convert over the next 5 years! The momentum is building ...

Rob Brooks
Hull-Aylmer EDA

Good idea!

Great idea Jim! I was working on this when I was at Sierra Club. We discovered that the by-laws in Ottawa governing taxi size would not allow a hybrid Prius to be used as a taxi! They are used in Victoria with cab drivers loving them. But the Ottawa by-law rules that the Prius is just too small by length to be considered for a car licence!