Natural Gas-Powered Taxis Gain Favor in Chicago, Other Cities

yellow taxi - natural gas taxisA Chicago taxi company will begin using a dozen Ford Transit Connect vans that run on natural gas instead of gasoline. Other cities are likely to follow.

Taxi Medallion Management, which is affiliated with Yellow Cab Chicago, bought the small Ford vans as part of its goal to cut its total emissions by 25%. They're due to be delivered in March.

Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline and burns cleaner, giving off up to 90% fewer smog-producing pollutants, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also produces 30% to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA's website said. Almost 90% of it is produced in the U.S."We are adding vehicles with more fuel-efficient gasoline engines, as well as vehicles with alternative-fuel sources, to find a vehicle mix that best suits our customers, our drivers, the city at large and the environment," Michael Levine, the cab company's CEO, said.

Ford has traditionally been the leading supplier of taxis in the U.S. Its Ford Crown Victoria sedan has been the mainstay of both taxi-fleets and police car fleets. Its sturdy, body-on-frame construction has made it a favorite of fleet customers.

But Ford is phasing out the Crown Victoria, and is trying to meet demand for taxis with the Transit Connect, which won North American Truck of the Year in 2010. The small van, which is built in Turkey, has been popular so far with small businesses like bakeries, flower shops and the like. As a taxi, which has been displayed at auto shows for the last two years, it is much more comfortable than the Crown Vic or most any other sedans, though the step-up height can be challenging for older patrons.

The Transit Connect gets 23 mpg in combined city-highway driving, 21% better than a conventional cab like the Ford Crown Victoria sedan.

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