In a bid to save operating costs, taxi firms in Chicago and Los Angeles are the two latest US cities to roll out Ford Transit Connect Taxis fueled by compressed natural gas.
Taxi Medallion Management in Chicago will put 12 CNG Transit Connect Taxis into service as part of an event celebrating the increased presence of CNG in Chicago.
One of these vehicles will participate in the opening of a new CNG filling station, where natural gas advocate T. Boone Pickens will speak at the event after arriving in the taxi.
The purchase is part of the company’s goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent, said Michael Levine, CEO of Taxi Medallion Management. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30-40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. “We are adding CNG-powered vehicles to our fleet in order to reduce the effective cost of fuel for our drivers, and to introduce cleaner vehicles for the environment,” said Levine.
Ford also announced two Los Angeles-area cab companies have ordered nearly 120 of the vehicles, adding the nation’s second-largest city to the growing list of urban areas adopting the versatile vehicle.
Yellow Cab of Anaheim and Cabco Yellow Inc of Orange County have together ordered 119 CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis. The first 50 will be delivered within the next two months. The rest are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2011.
Larry Gach, sales manager for Ford Commercial Trucks, said he expects orders in California to increase after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the use of Transit Connect Taxis modified by BAF Technologies to run on CNG.
However, these gas-powered cabs are popular in other cities, too. In Connecticut, for example, Metro Taxi of West Haven and Yellow Cab Company of Hartford have ordered a total of 70 CNG Transit Connect Taxis that will enter service by the end of summer. Other cities include Las Vegas and St Louis. Philadelphia is also expected to join the list after city officials recently approved CNG for use as well.
The fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States, Philadelphia City officials regulate the type of vehicles that can be used as taxis. To be approved, a vehicle must meet basic size requirements for headroom, legroom and cargo space. “The Ford CNG Transit Connect Taxi has many features of interest to the riding public,” said James Ney, director, Taxicab & Limousine Division, Philadelphia Parking Authority. “Its abbreviated footprint makes it perfect for use on our narrow, congested streets here in Philadelphia.”
The amount of space in the Transit Connect Taxi is winning over company owners such as Fred Sweets, of St Louis American Cab. He recently ordered his first Transit Connect Taxi that will be modified to run on CNG.
Sweets said he was intrigued by the shape and size of the Transit Connect when he first saw it being driven as a delivery van. Before buying one, he conducted his own research by asking users of the standard Transit Connect, such as flower delivery businesses, about their experiences with the small commercial van. “I asked them how they liked it, what their mileage was and how it was holding up,” said Sweets. “I got nothing but praise for the vehicle. I knew then that I had to add it to our fleet.”
Ford offers engine prep packages that allow conversions to CNG and liquefied propane gas (LPG). Both CNG and LPG lower taxi fleet operating costs and are better for the environment.