Black Cars to Go Green


Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that the hybrid changeover for yellow cabs will be extended to cover the city’s 10,000 black cars.

Under a proposed rule change, the Taxi and Limousine Commission would require new licensed black cars to meet a 25 m.p.g. standard for city driving in 2009 and 30 m.p.g. in 2010 — ratings "currently achievable only by using hybrid technology," according to the city. Today’s black cars average 12 to 15 m.p.g.

The black car requirement is a component of PlaNYC. Last year it was announced that all yellow cabs are to go hybrid by 2012.

"We’ve come up with a proposal similar to the new yellow cab standards, which the TLC board approved unanimously last December," said Bloomberg. "Between yellow taxis and black cars, more than 23,000 TLC regulated cars will be required to be more efficient. This will allow us to achieve substantial emissions reductions for our city — and keep us moving towards our long-term goal of creating a truly sustainable city."

It is estimated that the hybrid switch will reduce black car emissions by 50 percent.

Black cars would also be subject to a retirement regulation under the new rules. Unlike yellow cabs, black cars are not currently required to be removed from the for-hire fleet due to age. says the TLC will vote on the rule change on April 10.

Hybrid models that could be used include the Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Altima, Mercury Mariner, Lexus Rx400h, Ford Escape and Toyota Prius.

Photo: Edward Reed/

  • livable streets soul

    This is great news.

    But I have to wonder when the Mayor will announce that black cars (and taxis) have stopped idling illegally, parking in bike lanes and generally just trying to run me off the road when I ride my bike? Now that would be green.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I understand the usefulness of a photo-op, but the idea of cars in the Winter Garden disturbs me.

  • Damian

    Low-emissions or not, it disturbs me as a pedestrian to see several SUV models on that list. They’ve been proven more deadly to those they hit, and because of their higher stance, their drivers tend to be more aggressive.

  • Mick

    Word has it the city is measuring MPG only, not CO2/mile. As a result, CNG vehicles are not allowed.

  • upstate manhattan

    Now the rule just needs to be extended to livery cabs…

  • ddartley

    When a hybrid is standing still for a long period, idling, are they burning fuel, or running on battery?

    Because if they burn fuel, then this is just one more huge, ridiculous distration from the real issue: city-wide, 24 hour idling.

    Even if this will make a difference, there will still be thousands of motorists in other vehicles obliviously spewing filth into the air just like they are all over town, this very minute.

    I usually have very little faith in “enforcement” as a solution to the problems we discuss here, but in the case of idling, the problem is so destructive that it HAS to be reined in somehow, and enforcement is the only way I can imagine it happening. And the city is not interested. When I wrote them, they told me to call 311 when I see idling. Now that’s a funny image.

    Can’t they add idling to the list of infractions parking agents can write summonses for? I mean, what the #@$%%%%@$ are the City’s priorities?

  • vnm

    Upstate Manhattan, isn’t that what this announcement is doing?

  • Alex B.


    When hybrids are idling, the engine will shut off. It will kick back on when needed for acceleration. The time differential is quite short, too. If you drive/ride in a Prius or Civic hybrid, you’ll notice the engine turn itself off while waiting at red lights.

  • david

    @ddartley – Based on my experience with a Prius, if it is not moving for more than a few seconds (e.g. stopped at lights) the gas engine switches off. i.e. There is no idling pollution.
    I dont /think/ all hybrids do this. e.g. Honda Civic.

  • Spud Spudly

    Not all hybrids will switch their engines off while in operation. Many will, but they will switch back on if the battery gets low. My experience with a Prius is that when the battery’s full you can drive slowly in city traffic for around 20-25 minutes (don’t have a handle on the distance) without using the engine at all, provided you don’t accelerate quickly. But once the battery is low the engine will come on to charge the battery even if you’re not moving. I also averaged in a Prius around 38 mpg city and over 45 mpg highway.

  • upstate manhattan

    vnm — nope, as far as the TLC is concerned there’s a difference. For one thing there are about twice as many livery cabs as black cars. See here:

  • Damian

    That’s a shame — corporate limos tend to be pretty recent, well-maintained cars to begin with. But there are thousands of old, crapped-out livery Lincoln Towncars polluting the outer boroughs, and if what you say is true, they’ll be untouched by the new regulations.

  • anon

    I guess I don’t know the difference between the black cars and the livery cars. Someone please enlighten me. Thanks

  • I have a customer who is a livery car service, so I’ll explain. The black cars get almost all their business from accounts with corporations like Met Life, Morgan Stanley, etc. Many of these companies have rules where anyone who works after a certain hour automatically gets a free ride home. For employees above a certain rank, the company will pay for them to commute that way.

    Livery car services can have accounts like that, but a lot of their business is reservations by phone or web request to a dispatcher. I didn’t know for sure whether there were separate regulations for the black cars and the livery cars, but apparently there are.

    Livery cab drivers are not legally allowed to respond to street hails, but some do (illegally). Some actively solicit business; if you’re reasonably well-dressed (or white) in an outer-borough neighborhood, livery cab drivers will give a light tap of their horn as they pass to let you know they’re available.

  • upstate manhattan

    “in an outer-borough neighborhood, livery cab drivers will give a light tap of their horn as they pass to let you know they’re available.”

    It’s worth noting that this is a significant source of noise pollution in many neighborhoods as well.

  • JMC

    When a livery cab responds to a street hail it’s called a gypsy cab. They often work at outer borough subway stops late at night and solicit rides with a tap of the horn. The minimum fare is $6. Sometimes they are extremely convenient (a cold or wet winter night at midnight, for example).

    However, the gypsies are definitely a huge source of pollution in the outer boroughs, but I think the administration is right for working to regulate black cars first. First of all, black cars are usually new cars, whereas livery cabs are usually retired black cars. So when a black car retires, it becomes a livery cab. The best way to change the “input fleet” of livery cabs is to change the black cabs. Livery cab drivers buy used cars almost exclusively so the more used and slightly beaten ex-black-car hybrids that are in the city the better it will be for the livery cabs. Forcing livery cab drivers to buy a 22,000 car with 0 miles on it (as opposed to an old town car with 150-180k) is a significant financial burden. Forcing someone to buy a new lexus hybrid instead of a 7 mpg escalade or 12 mpg town car is definitely a step in the right direction. Forcing black cars to retire early will create a huge new fleet of used hybrids for use as livery cabs.

    Does anyone know if livery cab regulations require a certain type of car? If they do, I think it should be liberalized. A used camry or accord will get much better mileage than a used town car.

  • BicyclesOnly

    The new black cars should also have governors on the to prevent them from exceeding 55 MPH or perhaps some lower threshold.

  • galvo

    i have been seeing a huge increase in black cars soliciting passengers in midtown area, every place i walk i see people trying to hail a taxi and a black car pulls up. i see them pull over at bus stops to solicit fares, saw one yesterday pull up in front of Rockefeller center to grab some taxi fares.
    is there a downside harm to peds and bicyclist with this?


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