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THE Taxi Recapitalisation Programme is costing South African taxpayers about R8 billion and sees the replacement of aging, unsafe minibus taxis (that constitute the bulk of the taxi industry) with new vehicles that are safe and reliable.  The programme also seeks to ensure the sustainability of the industry as a business, as well as ensure its formalisation and effective regulation.  Implementation will take place over a seven year programme.  What an opportunity!

And in Cape Town, the City's 2010 business plan highlights considerable revamping of the city's fleet of buses.

Elsewhere in the world – in response to both global warming and rising fuel prices – hybrid-powered buses and taxis are replacing the gas-guzzling vehicles that preceded them.

In the USA, it is city administrations that are taking the lead.  New York City has just announced a programme to convert that city's entire fleet of 13,000 taxis to hybrid vehicles by 2012.

What are the savings?  Fuel savings between R140 and R220 over the traditional, full-size sedan cabs per 240- to 480-kilometre shifts.  Air conditioning cost on hot days: R35 a shift, about half the sedan-version cost. Brakes are lasting twice as long.  The reason: the electric engine acts as a second braking system, taking much of the load off the conventional friction brakes.

“Everybody wants to drive them,” says Hal Mellegard, general manager of Yellow Cab, which has 23 Escape Hybrid taxis in its fleet. “For the company, it’s strictly good PR, but it’s money in the drivers’ pockets since they pay for their own gas.”

John Lazar, president of Luxor Cab, which owns seven Escape Hybrid vehicles, also is pleased: “Drivers love ’em. They’re burning about a third of the fuel they used to.”

What are hybrid electric vehicles?
"HEVs are primarily propelled by an internal combustion engine, just like conventional vehicles. However, they also convert energy normally wasted during coasting and braking into electricity, which is stored in a battery until needed by the electric motor. The electric motor is used to assist the engine when accelerating or hill climbing and in low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient. Some HEVs also automatically shut off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restart it when the accelerator is pressed. This prevents wasted energy from idling.

"Unlike all-electric vehicles, HEVs now being offered do not need to be plugged into an external source of electricity to be recharged; conventional gasoline and regenerative braking provide all the energy the vehicle needs." – www.fueleconomy.gov

Saving gas, saving the planet
In 2004, Seattle became the first city to put GM hybrid transit buses into service.

New York cab
The Ford Escape hybrid is one of the vehicles approved by NYC's taxi commission.






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