“Provincial Government Wants Cab Companies To Go Green,” is the top story today in Vancouver, B.C.’s morning paper, The Province. British Columbia Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon is urging the regional board charged with granting taxi licenses to dispense them only for highly fuel efficient or hybrid vehicles, in order to help reduce the province’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by at least one-third in the next 13 years.
Fewer tailpipe emissions from petroleum-based fuel, combined with greater use of cleaner liquid fuels plus ongoing adoption of liquid fuel+electric-powered hybrid vehicles, is green. Eventually, as lithium ion battery technology continues to improve, expect to see more plug-in hybrids in Vancouver’s taxi fleet and on the streets of Cascadia’s big cities – Vancouver, Seattle and Portland – where more conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius are already common and growing in popularity. Plug-ins, now under development by major automakers such as Chevy and Toyota, go even further on a charge, after loading up on electricity from a common wall outlet during off-peak hours.
But as Toyota’s Bill Reinert stressed at last week’s “Jump Start to A Secure Clean Energy Future” conference sponsored by our Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute, the electricity used to power plug-in hybrid vehicles must be clean, or the green benefits diminish. Likewise, others have noted, clean, green liquid fuels must be rigorously evaluated to ensure they really are clean and green, not merely coasting on hype. The type and amount of energy required to produce alternative fuels must not greatly lower the net gain to the environment when they are used in place of fossil fuels.
That said, hybrid vehicles using electricity and liquid fuels are already environmentally and economically attractive to some fleet managers. Gauging reaction to the transport ministry’s announcement today, The Province reports:
“I think it’s a good idea,” said John Palis, general manager of Black Top and Checker Cabs in Vancouver. “We’re getting away from the days of the old used police-cars, and those old big gas-guzzlers. It’s a matter of economics, plus it’s the correct thing to do.” Palis said hybrids have been on Vancouver roads since 2000.
One hybrid taxi ran 330,000 kilometres without any engine problems. It so impressed Toyota that they took the old cab and traded it for a new one, in order to study the engine.
“The current hybrid cars that we’re using have proved themselves some of the most reliable cars we’ve ever purchased,” Palis said. The fuel-burning rate of a hybrid is less than 50 per cent that of a standard cab, Palis said. That translates into a saving of $10,000-12,000 a year in fuel costs. “Over the course of four years, the vehicle virtually pays for itself,” he said.
According to the B.C. Transportation Ministry’s press release today:
As part of the government’s plan to take action on climate change, a new emphasis will be placed on promoting eco-friendly taxis in the Vancouver and Victoria areas, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced today. “This government’s goal is to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below current levels by 2020,” said Falcon. “This is an aggressive target and it sets a new standard in transportation. That’s why I am asking the Passenger Transportation Board to take into account the Province’s greenhouse gas reduction policy in all its decisions — to help create a cleaner environment for all British Columbians.”
Falcon has sent a letter to the Passenger Transportation Board, requesting that all approvals of applications for taxis in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and the Capital Regional District (CRD) be for eco-friendly vehicles (hybrid or other highly energy efficient vehicles) only. This would extend to approvals for new licences or additional vehicles under current licenses in the GVRD and CRD…..”We are going to continually seek new ways to promote clean transportation in B.C.,” said Falcon. “This is the first step towards developing a commercial passenger transportation system which produces a minimum of greenhouse gases.”
All-electric lithium battery-powered PT Cruiser taxicabs developed by Hybrid Technologies are to begin operating in New York City. The company last week demonstrated other electric vehicles at our “Jump Start” conference in Redmond, part of a larger mix of hybrids and electrics on display there.
Green vehicles and fuels are rightly in the limelight these days. Also especially important environmentally in the transportation sector are commercial trucks, which leave a considerable footprint of greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll get to that another day.
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