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Friday, February 29, 2008

ALL BLACK CARS TO TURN GREEN

NEW YORK CITY -- The long lines of sleek black cars that idle outside
corporate headquarters as they wait to shuttle executives from meeting
to meeting, will become more environmentally friendly under a plan
announced on Wednesday by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Under the plan, the entire fleet of roughly 10,000 limousines, mostly
black, that are used by businesses ranging from Lehman Brothers to
Condé Nast, would be required to meet fuel-efficiency standards,
attainable only with hybrid vehicles, of 25 miles a gallon in 2009 and
30 miles a gallon in 2010. Currently the cars average 12 to 15 miles a
gallon and add 272,000 tons of heat-trapping gases to the air each
year, or about 2 percent of the city's transportation-related
emissions, according to the city.

Officials expect the new standards to cut emissions in half, in part
because the more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles switch to battery
power when they idle.

"While yellow cabs are constantly on the move, black cabs actually
spend a decent amount of time just sitting and waiting for their
client to come out," Mayor Bloomberg said.

The plan, part of Mr. Bloomberg's overall program to make the city
more environmentally sound in the coming decades, is to go before the
NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission for approval at a hearing on
Thursday, April 10, 2008 and includes a requirement that the so-called
black cars be replaced every six years, a way of ensuring that almost
all of them would meet the new standards by 2013.

"It is to the great credit of black-car industry leaders that they
have collectively embraced Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to reduce harmful
emissions," said Matthew W. Daus, the taxi and limousine commissioner.

The city has already begun phasing hybrids into its fleet of 13,000
yellow cabs, and Mayor Bloomberg said officials were working to devise
a plan for the roughly 40,000 livery cabs that serve neighborhoods,
especially outside Manhattan, where other taxis are scarce.

Mayor Bloomberg said he expected drivers to support the proposal
because it would bring them more business and save them thousands of
dollars in fuel costs each year. Increasingly, he said, the companies
that use the cars, which are summoned to specific locations rather
than being hailed in the street, are demanding the greener vehicles.

The mayor's plan would also include incentives like tax breaks and
low-cost-financing options to make it easier for the drivers, many of
whom must buy their cars, to afford the higher down payments needed
for hybrid vehicles.

Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers are working with a black-car
company, Executive Transportation Group, to help provide low-interest
loans for hybrid-vehicle purchases. Best Ford Taxi and Hudson
Toyota/Penske Automotive Group have said they would offer favorable
financing packages to the drivers. And the city is asking the state to
approve the waiver of sales taxes on purchases
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