New York, New York – The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade in New York Ciy has said that Toyota and Honda have issued “outright warnings” against using their hybrid passenger vehicles as commercial taxicabs. The board also said that Ford, General Motors and Nissan “have refused to certify the crashworthiness of their hybrid New York taxicabs as modified with mandatory partitions”, and that the automakers have shifted responsibility to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which then shifts it to the federal government, which does not require automakers to crash-test vehicles modified with the bulletproof partitions.
In late 2007, the TLC mandated that all new taxis, the vast majority of which are required to have partitions, must be hybrids or other vehicles that achieve US25 mpg (9.0 L/100 km), which disallows the purpose-built stretch Ford Crown Victoria taxicab. The Metropolitan Taxicab Board has mounted a legal challenge, citing a 2008 engineer’s report that finds hybrids to be unsafe and unfit as New York City cabs. The mandate has been delayed and a federal court ruling is expected later this month.
On August 29, 2008, Richard Emery, an attorney for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board, wrote to automakers requesting that they certify their hybrids or manufacturer-approved alternative-fuel vehicles to be safe when modified with partitions or other TLC requirements. In its response, Honda said that “Honda vehicles are not sold or recommended for use as taxicabs.” Emery said that in July 2008, the TLC issued an industry notice that the Honda Civic Hybrid is one of nine approved vehicles for taxi use.
Emery said that Toyota has not officially responded; the TLC report approves the Prius, Highlander and Camry. Nissan offered no crash test results on modified Altimas, while Ford acknowledged that “there is an increased risk for belted occupants to contact the partition in a collision” and would not certify the crashworthiness of Escape Hybrids with partitions. General Motors refused to certify the crashworthiness of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid when modified with a partition and did not mention the Saturn Vue Hybrid, which appears on the TLC’s approved list.
The TLC has confirmed that it does not crash-test hybrid taxicabs modified with partitions and said that it relies in large part on federal testing to assert the safety of hybrid taxicabs. However, it has been established that there are no federal crash tests for hybrid taxicabs modified with partitions, and there are no front or rear crash tests in unmodified hybrids for adult rear occupants, which comprise the majority of taxi passengers. The board said that hybrid automakers explictly warn against any modifications to hybrid vehicles in the owner manuals.