As hybrids continue to be a popular choice for personal vehicles, their use in a service capacity is increasing. The City of Chicago, Illinois, is seeking to integrate them into its taxicab fleet, and United Parcel Service (UPS) is also using the vehicles.

Ford Motor Company is loaning Chicago, Illinois, an Escape Hybrid for one year to use as a training tool as the Chicago City Council is considering a plan to integrate hybrids into its taxicab fleets beginning in 2007. New York City and San Francisco, California, are already using Escape Hybrids as taxis, and drivers estimate that they are saving $50-$75 a week in gas. In addition to the money saved, the hybrid taxis are contributing to improved air quality in the cities.

The Escape Hybrid is classified as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle, which means it operates with ultra-clean emissions. According to Ford, the hybrid’s fuel economy in stop-and-go city driving is 80 percent higher than a conventional Escape. The two-wheel-drive version achieves 36 miles per gallon in city driving.

“I’d like to thank Ford for this donation, and I hope it encourages cab companies to invest in more hybrid vehicles,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

UPS is also incorporating hybrid vehicles into its fleet, announcing in February that it ordered fifty “new-generation” hybrid electric delivery trucks and that it has plans to obtain more than four thousand additional low-emission vehicles in 2006. The hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are being purchased in two sizes and feature lithium ion batteries. The trucks will be externally identical to UPS’s signature brown trucks.

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This UPS hybrid electric delivery truck is already in use in China and will soon appear in the United States. Credit: UPS

“We’re excited to be among the first to deploy this latest in HEV technology because it promises a 35 percent increase in fuel economy in addition to a dramatic decrease in vehicle emissions,” said UPS fleet environmental manager Robert Hall. “Our long-term goal is to minimize dependence on fossil fuels, and we will get there by deploying a wide variety of new automotive technologies in our fleet.”

The first HEVs will be deployed in Dallas, Texas, in June. UPS was the first package delivery company to introduce HEVs into daily operations with a research program it launched in early 1998. The UPS alternative fuel fleet has 1,500 vehicles, and it is one of the largest in the United States. The fleet currently includes trucks powered by compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, electricity, and hydrogen.

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