New environmental-friendly fleet joins Yellow Cab Chicago

By Kristen Franzen

A new way to get around Chicago’s city streets is in the works. In March, one of the city’s largest taxi companies will begin using cleaner fuel and potentially provide a greener environment.

The federal government has approved the new Ford Transit Connect taxi as a fleet to join Yellow Cab Chicago. The vehicles will be delivered in March 2011 to Taxi Medallion Management.

The company purchased a dozen Ford Transit Connect taxis that will run on clean-burning, compressed natural gas instead of petroleum to reach the company’s goal of reducing emissions by

25 percent.

Transit Connects are slowly expected to replace many of the traditional Crown Victorias that currently serve the Chicagoland area, according to a press release from Ford Media.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, compressed natural gas is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30 to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are adding vehicles with more fuel-efficient gasoline engines, as well as vehicles with alternative-fuel sources, to find a vehicle that best suits our customers, our drivers, the city at large and the environment,” said Michael Levine, CEO of Taxi Medallion Management, in a press release by Ford Media.

Along with compressed natural gas, Transit Connects are available with an additional package that includes an engine compatible with liquefied propane gas.

For the conversion to work efficiently, Ford is providing specific instructions for the adjustment to be completed without voiding the engine’s warranty.

“Compressed natural gas and propane offer more than sufficient power for vehicles because they are high-energy fuels,” said Rob Stevens, chief engineer for Transit Connect, in a press release by Ford Media. “Another natural benefit for these fuels is they provide an overall lower emission of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.”

Compressed natural gas and liquefied propane gas benefit the atmosphere and lower expenses for taxi service, according to Jeff Feldman, president of Taxi Medallion Management.

“I believe it’s the next best thing,” he said. “The automotive industry is starting to see the demand for more environmentally friendly vehicles.”

Ford Motor Company is working with Taxi Medallion Management to service taxi operators better. According to Taxi Medallion Management, the Ford Transit Connect Taxi is expected to meet high demands of taxicab services in Chicago. For this to happen, Transit Connects provide an EPA-estimated 21 miles per gallon and 26 miles per gallon highway compared with traditional taxis with an estimated 15 miles per gallon.

“Being environmentally friendly is one of the many positive features the Transit Connect offers,” said Ford Truck and Commercial Public Relations Manager Anne Marie Gattari. “It’s fuel efficient and easy to get around in tight places.”

Since its first appearance in Boston in December 2010, Transit Connect has spurred interest across the country.

“We hope the trend continues—that’s the goal for Transit Connect Taxi,” Gattari said. “We hope cities across the country adopt it, and we hope taxi operators use it in their fleet.”

Feldman said its ability to convert makes the taxi attractive.

Gerald Koss, fleet marketing manager for Ford Motors, said in a press release Transit Connects have proved themselves with their remarkable versatility for commercial fleet.

“The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with the capability for compressed natural gas and liquefied propane gas conversion, further demonstrates its flexibility,” he said.