The hybrid car movement has seen a radical transformation in the last two decades. 20 years ago, in 1997, the Toyota Prius launched in Japan as the world’s first commercial hybrid car. Two years later, the car became available in the United States.

Now, the world is a much different place. You have dozens of choices when buying a hybrid car, including some surprisingly fast sports cars, like the BMW i8.

But, while hybrids are on the rise, they still only comprise three percent of all the cars on the road today. This is a shame, because they could make a powerful difference, especially if more taxis were hybrid.  

A fleet of hybrid taxis in cities and towns across America would be a powerful boon for both the economy and the environment.

Let’s take a closer look and see what hybrid taxis could accomplish.    

Economy

Understanding the higher cost of hybrid cars

Hybrid cars can save quite a lot of money, but not for everyone. It’s important to dispel fact from fiction when discussing the impact of hybrid cars on our collective wallet.

In fact, hybrid cars can actually be more expensive (even when fuel is factored in) if you only drive 15,000 miles in 5 years. The price tag is often around $4,000 more, so you would fail to consume enough gas to reach the break-even point for fuel costs.

Also, you have to factor in the cost of replacing the battery. This additional maintenance cost can range between $1,000 and $6,000. We can’t overlook these costs when considering the impact of a fleet of hybrid taxis.   

Why it makes sense for taxis to be hybrid

On an individual basis, it doesn’t always make good financial sense for everyone to drive a hybrid. However, taxis are another story.

In most major cities, taxis drive upwards of 70,000 miles per year, which means they would hit the break-even point within the first four months of being on the road. And considering taxis typically drive between 400,000 and 500,000 miles over their lifetime, that’s a lot of gas miles saved.

And it gets better. While conventional cars were designed to be more fuel efficient on highways, hybrid cars were meant to be driven in the city and around town. Average gas mileage skyrockets in these areas because of the regenerative braking model. This means that the electric part of the car is charged when you brake. Seeing as though you brake more around town than on the highway (hopefully), hybrid taxi make good financial sense.

There are also some good auxiliary benefits. For instance, hybrids have to gas up less frequently, meaning more time can be spent driving and less waiting at the gas station. Combined with government tax breaks, you can potentially save a good chunk of change.

Some quick math

Let’s take the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus, which gets 133 MPGe. Compare that with the 29 MPG of most taxis in New York City. That’s a difference of 103 MPG.

In 2012, there were 233,900 taxi drivers. So if you figure each of their taxis has a lifetime of 500,000 miles, you’re seeing 117 billion miles driven per taxi on the road.

For a conventional taxis, that’s about 4 billion gallons of gas expended, versus only 880 million gallons for a hybrid. At $2.40/gallon, that means potential saving upwards of $7.5 billion on gas expenses.

This could result in cheaper taxi fares, thus yielding more spending power per person (and a stronger economy).

Environment

Now

It’s not just about the money. We have to care about Mother Nature as well.

Here’s something to consider. Hybrid cars put out only .75 pounds of gas per mile, compared to more than 1.1 pounds from conventional cars.

If we think about just that in terms of the lifetimes of all the taxis we have now (117 billion miles), it’s the difference of 41 million pounds of gas being emitted into the atmosphere by just the current generation of taxis.

2050

Experts are saying that this is just the beginning. As we see advancements in the hybrid car game, between electrics, hybrids, and other variations, we’re set to cut greenhouse gasses significantly by 2050. Right now, we’re predicting to cut carbon emissions from automobiles by 80 percent by 2050.

What that means holistically is that the United States would be pumping 10 percent less pollution. This is significant because, right now, 17 percent of all greenhouses gasses in the United States comes from automobiles.

Could you imagine a less polluted Los Angeles or New York City?

Good sense, pure and simple

Hybrid taxis could radically transform the economy and the environment, and they’re already starting to. We’re going to be seeing some grand developments over the next three decades, but more government-subsidized initiatives will be needed in the upcoming years in order to push this process along.