Hybrid Taxis for NYC. Just Say No?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
hybrid taxis for nyc just say no

Marketwatch reports that Honda and Toyota are warning against using their hybrid vehicles as taxi cabs, on safety concerns. Ford, GM and Nissan have also refused to certify the crashworthiness of their hybrid vehicles as hire cars. The story starts with an August 29 letter, sent from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), asking automakers to certify that their hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles are manufacturer-approved to be used as taxicabs and safe when modified with partitions and other TLC requirements. This letter in turn came from a Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (MTBT) legal challenge to TLC’s mandate that all new NY taxis be hybrids or other vehicles that achieve 25 miles-per-gallon. Citing a 2008 engineer’s report that finds hybrids to be unsafe and unfit as New York City taxicabs, the MTBT have held up TLC’s mandate in court, and now that automakers won’t certify their safety, the TLC mandate may be DOA. Issues over safety partitions and their interaction with side-curtain airbags and other safety equipment prevent automakers from certifying the safety of their hybrids when modified for taxi use. Since nobody crash-tests hybrids modified with safety partitions, nobody will take any legal responsibility for them, and thus they may well die on the vine. Meanwhile, in less hellishly violent corners of this great nation, cabbies are turning to hybrids with enthusiasm. As long as you don’t need several inches of bulletproof glass between you and your customers, hybrids are a safe, efficient choice for taxis.

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  • Ronman Ronman on Oct 10, 2008

    Havent checked how much the new chevy cruze gobbles, but if it's fitted with a turbocharged 1.3 or 1.4, it should be enough to potter around NYC. with start stop technology, and special gearing, the NYC Cabbies can still use an american product and cut down humongously on their fuel bill and lessen emissions. i say drop the inch thick partition and use bead curtains like in Asia, since it's asian driving most of the cabs anyway. bead curtains have been studiyed by ADAC (only if) and were found to deal better with side impact curtain airbags as well as tickle you while the car is rolling over. as if that would happen in new york city traffic. the only roll over a cab should expeirience is when Godzilla lands in town. well that was for laughs but there are a lot of cars running about with no rolover bag curtains. manufactueres can incorporate the side airbags in the seats or put two curtains rather than 1 running the whole side of the car, this way the partition can still be there. i believe if a company designs a special taxi car to curtail most of the major cities' of the world specification, they would make a hefty profit. anyway, the photo shows the DUBAI RTA checking out their latest ultra dismally economical Tahoe Hybrid. what a laugh. and what's up with the malibu. i'm sure you can scrap a few to indulge the cabbies with their so important conversions.

  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Oct 10, 2008

    Most taxis here in Germany are Mercedes E200 diesels (136hp) or Passat diesels (105 or 140hp). These are adequately powered for their duty and last forever, most serviced by taxi maintenance workshops. Volkswagen and Mercedes make special taxi versions with everything in place. We don't have partitions here though. That running a heavy V8 sedan as a taxi still makes economical sense warps my (Euro) mind.

  • Steve Crowell Steve Crowell on Nov 04, 2008

    “Since nobody crash-tests hybrids modified with safety partitions, nobody will take any legal responsibility for them…” Edward Niedermeyer ‘Crash-testing’ is only mandatory for any model ‘entire vehicle’. Vehicle ‘equipment’ doesn’t undergo crash-tests… unless the USDOT makes a determination that such equipment testing is ‘called for’. It is the obligation of the partition manufacturer to comply and to certify compliance in the form of a label or a tag on the product (ANY item of after-market motor vehicle equipment whose aspect of performance relates to safety standards in effect at the time of production). It is illegal to manufacture, offer for sale, sell or install substandard uncertified, non-complying after-market motor vehicle equipment. Partition makers received official USDOT letters of ‘warning’ from the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Enforcement Section Director, Frank Armstrong on June 22, 1984. I know this because I wrote the complaint that prompted this so-called ‘enforcement action’. SWC “The MFRs will not certify their hybrids for taxi use but they are ok for us regular people. Sounds alot like the old Pinto deal.” sportsuburbangt The MFR’s can and DO certify that their vehicles comply. What they don’t certify is the compliance of after-market modifications, performed by illegal ‘alterers, according to the specifications of the NYCT&LC, in violation of federal law which forbids states or political sub-divisions of states from setting inferior standards. SWC “In Vancouver, you don’t have a partition between the driver and passenger, or a lot of the more amusing features of New York” psarhjinian Vancouver (like several other cities – worldwide) heeded my suggestion to observe CMVSS’s IF they decided to require taxis to have partitions. I didn’t WANT to kill the prospects of regulators creating the existence of an unwilling consumer demand by discouraging the implementation of mandates for partitions in taxis. I’ve just done my best to teach them what a taxi partition CAN and CANNOT do. An automobile partition CAN afford the operator an enhanced ability to maintain control of the vehicle (in most circumstances). SWC “Perhaps some hearse conversion company would be interested in chopping & extending Prius cars into taxicabs with more leg room, and room enough for a safety barrier for the driver.” menno_ There is no need to diminish rear seat legroom with a partition. It CAN be avoided. Just make the partition stay flush with the front seat, regardless of what position it is adjusted to. With the partition I designed and build… the rear seat legroom is identical to that of the same model vehicle WITHOUT a partition. SWC “Maybe if they didn’t have psychopaths with a death wish drive the cabs, we wouldn’t need 8″ of plexi-glass to prevent us from flying into the front row.” peoplewatching04 : I once WAS one of those psychopaths. I was one day prompted by a one-in-a-million passenger to seek some understanding as to why I had such a hostile attitude towards the very people I hoped would ‘tip’ me. I did much soul searching and concluded that the partition sets up an adversarial atmosphere. Idiotic customers would get in the cab, while their feet clamor across the hump, banging on the sheet metal, it would obscure the voice of the passenger sating their destination… and then say; “Boy, it must be BAD here in Boston, huh?” They were referring to the partition installation. Sometimes they would say “If driving is so dangerous that you need a partition, why do you DO IT? To this comment I would snap back “I DON’T WANT THIS THING HERE! It doesn’t stop crime. It just increases the likelihood that the robber will have a gun instead of a knife and gets in my way if I need to shoot some stupid SOB for threatening my life for a few bucks.” There are three well concealed truths about the partitions currently in use. None are certified to comply (nor DO comply), collision fatality and traumatic brain injury ‘frequency of incident’ is radically stimulated and murder rates INCREASE with mandatory partition use. The murder rate increase is well concealed, but in there nonetheless, in the “STONE REPORT”. The “STONE REPORT” is the study conducted 29 years after Boston & NYC made taxi partition installation mandatory. They didn’t study Boston or NYC though. Dr. Stone studied Baltimore, with less than 365 days of partition installation mandates in place. Stone concluded more murders carried less weight than fewer non-fatal assaults. A 400% increase in the murder rate, compared with a 20% decline in non-fatal assault was viewed with a skeptical eye by Stone. He asserted that 16 fewer non-fatal assault incidents carried more weight than the murder rate increase from 3 in 12 months to 3 in three months. The reason higher murder rates with allegedly bullet-proof/resistant partitions is… ‘played down’ by the authorities… is because it doesn’t matter to them. All that matters to taxi regulators is maintaining the illusion that partitions afford protection from fatal assailants. The alternative is too frightening for them. The alternative might be to advise cab drivers to exercise (if merited) the use of deadly force to repel assailants. Banning discretionary latitude, while requiring partitions, creates the impression that the taxi regulators have the authority to dictate to Independent Contractors where or when they will work. THAT, of course is BALONEY. SWC “Has anyone gotten a “safety certification” letter from Ford? What auto maker would open themselves up to the liability of signing off on a piece of paper declaring that their vehicles are “safe” after modification by a third party?” John Horner The answer is; NONE would. None do, nor ever will. But the car makers have exercised their legal, ethical and moral obligation to notify the mandating agency (The NYCT&LC) that modifications required by the NYCT&LC with the partition installation specified, installed and approved by the NYCT&LC. Of course the NYCT&LC, according to ‘Hybrid Mandate’ news reports, has ignored EVERY one of the 70-odd advisories issued by car makers about partition safety hazards. SWC “Now, turn off the TV and read the article again. The MFRs will not certify their hybrids for taxi use after a 3rd party does Allah-knows-what to it, screwing a sheet of bulletproof glass directly in the path of two side airbags.” “The alternative is basically saying “Sure, we have NO idea what will happen because we’re not the ones putting in the glass! But we’ll certify them…so if anything even remotely bad happens, just go ahead and sue the crap out of us.” “ JuniorMint Car makers have no culpability here. The violators are… the sanctioning agency (the NYCT&LC, the partition maker, the NY state MV inspection agencies… and the USDOT. All have ignored the injury and death losses attributable to illegal hazards of substandard, uncertified, non-complying partitions… installed EXACTLY the way the NYCTL&C demands that it be done. SWC “Do Crown Vics even have side air bags? Sounds like that’s the issue (installing bullet proof glass in the path of the side air bags), not the fact they are hybrids.” Geotpf Side-curtain airbags are not mandatory. It IS permitted to disable them, as with the front impact airbags. The airbag/partition conflict is not a problem since side curtain airbags are optional. There is nothing bullet-proof OR bullet-resistant about partitions. Even a partition capable of a level three ballistic resistance rating… will never, ever keep an assailant from shooting the driver through another window. SWC “I have to ask, because the post does not, what new cars ARE certified? I suspect none. Why would any car maker open themselves to such an open ended liability?” yankinwaoz Take this to the bank… if you find a new car on a ‘new car’ sales lot… it IS certified to comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards. Look on the door jamb for the certification of compliance label. It is the NYCT&LC insisting that the padding on the back of the front seat be covered with steel. It is the NYCT&LC insisting that the plastic glazing portion be constructed of sub-standard glazing. It is the NYCT&LC insisting that the plastic section include hazardous, illegal, edges and protrusions. It is the NYCT&LC insisting that the partition be exactly the way they specify (illegal) IF… the taxi is to ‘pass’ their inspection. SWC Steven W Crowell

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Nov 05, 2008

    SWC, Thanks for all the info. I don't know a lot about taxi issues because where I live, it's cheaper to rent a car for a week than to take a couple trips by taxi. However, I have to note this gem of yours: "The reason higher murder rates with allegedly bullet-proof/resistant partitions is… ‘played down’ by the authorities… is because it doesn’t matter to them. All that matters to taxi regulators is maintaining the illusion that partitions afford protection from fatal assailants." Your ability to understand and explain this is awesome. So many things in the auto industry, and the country, are screwed up due to almost identical circumstances. Until more of us get it, progress will be elusive.