New Hybrid Taxis Taking Off

Once the sole province of eco-conscious consumers willing to pay a little extra to reduce their environmental footprint, gas-electric hybrid vehicles have found an eager new consumer demographic: taxi services. In urban areas from Vancouver to Boston to New York City, taxi operators are getting hep to the benefits of hybrids: The cars perform at their best in stop-and-go traffic, as both engines shut off entirely when stopped, and the gas engine tends to start up only in highway driving; regenerative braking systems capture energy normally lost to braking and convert it to electricity, which increases gas mileage; maintenance costs tend to be lower, since idling can wear down timing belts and fuel injectors; a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers will go out of their way to choose a hybrid service; and some airports and municipalities offer tax breaks for eco-friendly fleets. According to Bart Chezar, a transportation consultant, each radio-dispatched car in NYC replaced with a hybrid saves the operator $3,800 a year if gas prices are about $2 a gallon.