Halfway to a Green Taxi Fleet in San Francisco

By Gavin Newsom

Almost two years ago to the day, I sponsored a Green Taxi Law requiring San Francisco cab companies to lower their greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. When I announced this goal many said it was unattainable.

We thought it was not only possible, but necessary to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, clean our air, and accelerate a new green economy.

I am pleased to announce that we are well on our way to exceeding this goal. The City’s taxi fleet as of this morning is comprised of 57 percent alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles. These fuel-efficient vehicles have reduced gas consumption by 2.9 million gallons per year and lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 35,000 tons annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 4,700 passenger cars off the road.

And its good news for cab drivers too. Even though lower-emission cabs cost a little more to take out for a shift ($104.50 per 10 hour shift instead of $96.50 for a gas vehicle), cab drivers like them because they save money.

Driving a gasoline-powered cab for one shift, about 135 miles, costs a driver anywhere from $28-$35 in fuel, while filling up a hybrid costs about half that around $15 per shift. The economics behind our environmental decision has made the transition to a green taxi fleet that much easier.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Department of the Environment joined the San Francisco taxi industry to announce that 57 percent of the taxi fleet is comprised of hybrid or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. There are 788 alternative fuel vehicles out of a total of 1,378 eligible vehicles. The CNG vehicles account for 131 of those and the hybrids account for 657.

Cab companies also appreciate the operational benefits of alternative-fuel vehicles. San Francisco’s hills are hard on taxis, the brakes in particular, and the hybrids save time and money on brake repair. For example, the brakes on a  gasoline-powered Crown Victoria have to be changed every 7,000- 8,00 miles—about once a month—while the brakes on a hybrid can go about 50,000 miles and only have to be changed every 6-8 months.

To make the transition to cleaner vehicles easier, San Francisco developed a grant program to encourage cab companies to purchase alternative-fuel vehicles. We provide Clean Air Taxi Grant incentives of $2,000 per vehicle on a first-come, first-served basis. (For information about how to apply, contact Vicky Siu at vicky.siu@sfmta.com or call (415) 701-4400.)

In 2004, San Francisco taxi industry leaders Yellow Cab and Luxor Cab were the first cab companies in the United States to adopt hybrid vehicles. Without their innovation and participation, the City’s clean taxi policy might have faced more obstacles, or even failed.

In San Francisco, our stakeholders have worked together successfully and have proven that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions. Our continued collaboration will help us meet our next goal—the nation’s first 100 percent green taxi fleet.

Gavin Newsom

More than a decade ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was one of the original drivers of the EV1, an electric vehicle produced by General Motors (GM). When GM discontinued the series and reclaimed all of the EV1s, it was a major setback for the American car industry. Since then Newsom has been a tireless advocate for transforming, and recharging the American transportation sector with EVs. Newsom has engaged the entire Bay Area to make the region the cornerstone of the coming market for EVs.

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  • envoronmentalist since long ago
  • Levi Stoneking

    Now, if only it was possible to catch a cab in SF.

  • Charles


    When I lived in Burlingame and San Francisco, I would rather try to catch a cab than find a parking space.

  • JJspawn

    Can we get this over to DC next?? I don’t think the hills are as bad, but the stop and go traffic is just as bad anywhere else.

  • Doug Korthof



    Why do “journalists” continue to make this blatant ERROR??

    “…San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was one of the original owners of the EV1…”


    When will these sloppy writers start to understand reality??

  • Paul Gillespie

    A few more details. There were 811 cabs in SF in 1990, now there are 1500, making the 20% GHG reduction goal more significant. Of the 1500, 626 are hybrid, primarily Ford Escape and Ford Fusion, Toyota Prius, and Nissan Altima; and 139 Ford Crown Vic CNG. We tested the vehicles three years, on the streets of SF, as taxis, before mandating anything. We also shared the fuel cost savings by allowing companies to charge drivers $7.50 more per shift for cars rated SULEV or better. Our industry has lined up in support, and no lawsuits challenging the policy have been filed, unlike other cities. Mayor Newsom has been a strong and consistent voice in advocating this policy from the very beginning.
    Paul Gillespie
    San Francisco Taxi Commission 1999-2009

  • Roger

    The article actually states that mayor Newsome was one of the original DRIVER of the EV1.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Doug Korthof, I am sure that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was the proud owner of a three year EV1 lease. I have no doubt that if he had leased a Toyota RAV4 EV, with the option to buy accidently added in, he might be the proud owner of such instead of having to hand back the EV1 at the lease’s end.

  • Anonymous

    Another clarification. The author of this article IS Mayor Newsom, in a guest post, not a journalist.