When travelers hail taxis at San Diego International Airport, they’ll probably ride in a hybrid car because older, internal combustion engine cars are leaving the airport cab fleet.
Recently, thanks to the leadership and efforts of San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and the Board of Supervisors, the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District voted to provide additional funding so that the 43 remaining standard airport taxicabs can be replaced with hybrids or other clean vehicles by the end of 2015.
CSE helped lead the way
In 2011, CSE received a $923,000 grant and launched its airport clean vehicle conversion efforts. With incentive funding and a number of enthusiastic partners, we got the first 100 cabs to convert in just nine months. In 2013, without rebate funding, but with vigorous outreach and educational efforts, 80 more converted because it made financial sense, the cars worked well operationally and customers loved them. In 2014, another 75 cabs converted and, most recently, the county approved funding to help the remaining owner/operators convert and achieve 100 percent adoption.
When travelers walk to the curb at the airport, they see a row of “green” taxicabs that are beautiful, clean and spacious with plenty of room in the trunk and back seat. Their rides are quiet and smooth.
The older taxis, typically Ford Crown Victorias (or simply Crown Vics), had worn interiors, and they were “dirty” in terms of their emissions. A 2006 Crown Vic produces 8.2 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year; a 2012 Toyota Prius V produces 2.2 tons.
So far, the clean cabs have reduced the airport fleet’s GHG emissions by 62% and pollution related to smog by 90%, resulting in cleaner air in the busy downtown business district. Best of all, passengers feel good knowing they’re riding in a taxi that lessens our dependence on fossil fuels and helps achieve GHG emission reduction goals. And, according to the drivers, they show their appreciation by tipping better!
Taxi drivers are definitely fans of hybrid vehicles. Owners save up to $12,000 a year per cab in fuel costs. As for acquisition costs, although a new hybrid costs $30,000 versus a used Crown Vic at $5,000, with annual fuel costs alone, the payback on the difference is about two years. The rebates help with the down payment, and since most cab owners are small, independent owner/operators, they really need the up-front money to make the change.
“The switch to a hybrid has greatly improved my business. The savings from this vehicle will go toward putting my kids through college,” said Bemnet Hilemichael of ABC Cab.
Where the rubber meets the road
The San Diego International Airport is about 3.5 miles from downtown; typically, it’s stop‑and‑go traffic the entire way. As it turns out, hybrids get great gas mileage in traffic jams because when you apply the brakes, it slows down the car and generates electricity for fuel. The Crown Vics are least efficient in this type of traffic.
Visitors and residents notice the green cab program, and it enhances the city’s public image. Often they ask the drivers many questions about the hybrid cars and are known to help spread the news to others.
CSE wants to help transition all California vehicles off fossil fuels and onto clean, green energy. We offer clean vehicle rebates and are available to discuss how we can help you, your agency or any business fleet.