DEARBORN – The global footprint of a New England cab company is a few sizes smaller after it put 35 compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis into service.
Metro Taxi of West Haven, Conn. added 35 Ford Transit Connect Taxis to its fleet as part of its efforts to reduce reliance on gasoline and greenhouse gas emissions. The cabs are the first CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis in New England.
The addition of the Transit Connect Taxis to the Metro Taxi fleet is being celebrated as part of an event in West Haven today coinciding with the opening of a Clean Energy-owned CNG fueling station in the city.
A few weeks ago the first CNG Transit Connect Taxis began servicing West Haven, which is near Hartford and about 80 miles northeast of New York City. Bill Scalzi, president of Metro Taxi, said there is already a waiting list of drivers who want Transit Connect Taxis.
“The CNG Transit Connect Taxis have been a tremendous hit all around,” said Scalzi, who was named 2010 Taxicab Operator of the Year by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.
“The drivers love the fuel savings that come with CNG along with the overall roominess and the reliability of the Transit Connect taxis,” said Scalzi. “Passengers also love the fact that the new taxis are much easier to get in and out of than traditional car-styled taxis. We are really, really pleased with this new venture of ours.”
Gerry Koss, marketing manager, Ford Fleet, said Scalzi’s comments are echoed around the country. CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis are already servicing places such as Chicago, Las Vegas, St. Louis and California’s Orange County.
The addition of CNG Transit Connect Taxis to Metro Taxi’s fleet comes less than a month after California Yellow Cab put California’s first CNG Transit Connect Taxis into service.
“I’ve talked to Transit Connect Taxi drivers in places like Orange County and the response to these greener, cleaner vehicles has been phenomenal,” said Koss. “From a driving standpoint, taxi drivers tell me they love the maneuverability and comfort. Passengers are saying they can’t believe how much room and cargo space there is.”
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. Transit Connect Taxi is available with engine preparation packages for conversion to liquefied propane gas (LPG) or CNG.
CNG is used in traditional gasoline internal combustion engines that have been modified to operate on CNG. Dallas-based BAF Technologies, a Clean Energy-owned company, has been certified by Ford as a Quality Vehicle Modifier to convert standard Transit Connect Taxis into CNG-powered cabs.
The fuel cost savings and environmental impact of CNG-powered cars and trucks are two benefits of alternative fuel-powered taxis like the Transit Connect Taxi.
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 much less than a gallon of gasoline. The current national average cost per gasoline gallon equivalent is about $2. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the price per gallon of gasoline has ranged from just over $1 a gallon in early 2002 to nearly $4 a gallon this year. During the same period, however, CNG generally has stayed between $1 and $2 per gasoline gallon equivalent, peaking at a high of $2.34 in July 2008.
Clean Energy, which owns and operates more than 250 CNG stations, said the Ford Transit Connect Taxi fits in with its own mission.
“We are bringing the many benefits of natural gas fuel for transportation to West Haven and the state of Connecticut,” said Andrew J. Littlefair, president and CEO, Clean Energy. “Ford’s CNG Transit Connect Taxis will help measurably in this goal by lowering petroleum use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions up to 30 percent compared to traditional gas vehicles.”
CNG is a nontoxic, extremely clean-burning fuel and significantly reduces CO, CO2 and NOx compared with gasoline. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, use of CNG can result in 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Use is increasing, too. Clean Energy alone, for example, has plans for another 100 stations.
Ford has invested billions in researching and developing new fuel-efficient engines, transmissions and electrified vehicles, even during the depths of the economic downturn when competitors dialed back product spending. Today Ford has 12 vehicles with best-in-class fuel economy and four models with at least 40 mpg – claims no other full-line automaker can match.