DEARBORN, MI – California’s first compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis hit the greater Los Angeles area on Sept. 8, when California Yellow Cab of Orange County put its first 10 Transit Connect Taxis into service.
The first 10 Transit Connect Taxis are part of an order for 50 units that California Yellow Cab plans to put into service by 2012. In addition, Yellow Cab of Anaheim also ordered 69 units, bringing the total number of CNG Transit Connect Taxis that will soon be servicing Southern California to more than 100.
“Our goal is to convert our entire fleet to alternative fuels, so bringing the CNG Transit Connect Taxis into service is an exciting step in that direction,” said Tim Conlon, president and general manager of California Yellow Cab. “The drivers are excited too. They have been lining up to be among the first to get behind the wheel of a CNG-powered taxi.”
Many others in California are considering adding the vehicle to their fleets, said Gerry Koss, marketing manager of Ford Fleet.
“The Transit Connect Taxi is well-suited for California taxi service for many reasons, including its exceptional maneuverability and improved fuel economy,” said Koss. “As more and more taxi industry representatives see how well the Transit Connect Taxi performs, we expect the level of interest in the vehicle to increase accordingly.”
CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis are becoming more popular in other parts of the country as well, servicing places such as Las Vegas and St. Louis. Chicago is another city where CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis are in service already. Taxi Medallion Management put 12 of the vehicles into service in June.
Ford has certified Dallas-based BAF Technologies as a Quality Vehicle Modifier to convert standard Transit Connect Taxis into CNG-powered cabs.
The standard Ford Transit Connect – 2010 North American Truck of the Year – features a 2.0-liter I-4 engine that gets 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with traditional taxis.
The estimated fuel economy of a CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxi is the same as the standard gasoline version. However, operating costs are lower because the cost of a gasoline gallon equivalent of CNG is roughly half the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline. In addition to CNG, Transit Connect Taxi is available with an engine preparation package for conversion to liquefied propane gas (LPG).
“Taxicab operators will save up to $2 per gallon over gasoline at the pump,” said Mitchell Pratt, chief operating officer of natural gas fuel company Clean Energy Fuels. “Because the vehicles’ tailpipe emissions are near zero, Ford’s CNG Transit Connects qualify to drive in California’s carpool lanes and, compared to petroleum versions, will reduce greenhouse gases by almost 30 percent.”
Earlier this year in the Golden State, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the use of CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis modified by BAF Technologies, which is owned by Clean Energy Fuels.
In addition to the CARB approval, Conlon said another factor promoting CNG use is the increase in infrastructure supporting CNG-fueled vehicles. He said that since 2001 the number of CNG filling stations in Orange County has tripled to about 30.
“We have a situation here in Orange County where the per gallon equivalent of CNG is almost $2 less than the price of a gallon of traditional fuel. Given that, along with the increased infrastructure support, it’s not hard to see why it makes sense for us to go with the [CNG-powered] Transit Connect Taxi,” said Conlon.