Taxi of Tomorrow in New York Doesn’t Include a Diesel

By Paul Riegler on 23 June 2013
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The NV200

The NV200

Despite their popularity as taxis around the world, New Yorkers are not going to see diesel-powered cabs in their midst any time soon.  In September 2012, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to make the Nissan NV200, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the city’s official cab.  Last month, a judge blocked the plan, saying it violated the city’s administrative code, which stipulates that the city “shall approve one or more hybrid electric vehicle models” for use as a taxi.  The NV200 is not a hybrid and the administrative code failed to mention diesel as an option.

On Thursday, the TLC approved a modified set of rules as it attempts to introduce the NV200 on the city’s streets come fall.  The change will allow hybrids with an interior volume of at least 130 cubic feet (3,681 liters) to operate as taxis as well, although the number of hybrids that meet this stipulation is rather small.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers oppose the plan, both in its original and modified forms, arguing that the larger hybrids are far more expensive than slightly smaller ones.  A Toyota Prius V, which is permissible under the new rules, should cost $26,650, however, roughly $3,000 less than the NV200.

Nissan, which also plans to offer the NV200 in London, did not propose a diesel-powered option for New York although a 1.5-liter dCi diesel engine is standard for the U.K. version.

In Germany, most taxis are Mercedes-Benz E-Class diesels, and the current London taxi, known as a Hackney cab, is also a diesel and can be found in numerous countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait although not in the U.S.

Diesel-powered taxis are beloved by their drivers for both excellent fuel economy and reliability.  In many cases, hybrid-powered automobiles will outperform diesels when it comes to fuel economy in the city but their reliability as taxicabs, which typically travel over 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) per year, is only now starting to be tested.

In 2011, as different options were being proposed, a Turkish company, Karsan, submitted the Karsan V1, a design that was picked by 66% of New York City residents when the Bloomberg administration conducted a poll to help select the taxi of tomorrow.  The V1’s design included a wheelchair ramp (something Nissan’s entry lacks), and was a hybrid that could also be offered in gasoline, diesel, and electric variants.