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June 16, 2011

Taxi Fleet Owners in L.A., Philly Hail Use of Compressed Natural Gas-Powered Ford Transit Connect



Any day now, when you tell your taxi driver to put his foot on the “gas pedal,” he will accelerate using compressed natural gas (CNG)—not gasoline. Taxi fleet managers in several large U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have placed orders for CNG-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis. Some have already found their way to the streets.

The Ford Transit Connect Taxi, which rolled off the production line for the 2011 model year, is built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform, and offers a traditional, fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine that is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service. It also comes with a new engine prep package that will adapt the engine for the use of CNG or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas).

"The Transit Connect Taxi was developed using market research we conducted with the taxi industry to better understand what customers wanted in a future vehicle," said Gerald Koss, Marketing Manager, Ford Fleet Operations. "The more conversations we had, the more interest we saw in a taxi with the flexibility of offering a compressed natural gas version."

Two Los Angeles-area cab companies —Yellow Cab of Anaheim and Cabco Yellow Inc. of Orange (News - Alert) County— have ordered a combined 119 CNG-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis, adding the nation's second-largest city to the growing list of large urban areas adopting the versatile vehicle. The first 50 will be delivered within the next two months. The rest are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2011.The Ford dealership, South Bay Ford in Los Angeles, will deliver the taxi units to the cab companies.

Larry Gach, sales manager at Ford Commercial Truck Sales and Marketing, said he expects orders in California to increase now that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the use of Transit Connect Taxis modified to run on CNG by Dallas-based BAF Technologies.

BAF is the first CNG vehicle upfitter in the United States to be named a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) for gaseous fuels. “The ability to offer Ford QVM bi-fuel vehicles to the marketplace is a huge step forward,” said John Bacon, president of BAF Technologies. “Not only will our new BAF bi-fuel models provide commercial and municipal fleets with increased flexibility in deploying their vehicles; they will move us another step closer to getting CNG vehicles into the hands of consumers, as the fueling infrastructure continues to develop.”

In Chicago on June 16, Taxi Medallion Management is putting 12 CNG-powered Ford Transit Connect Taxis into service as part of an event celebrating the increased presence of CNG in Chicago. In addition, one of the new taxis will participate in the ribbon-cutting at a Clean Energy CNG filling station and natural gas advocate T. Boone Pickens will speak at the event after arriving in a CNG Transit Connect Taxi.

Taxi Medallion Management bought the 12 CNG -powered Transit Connect Taxis as part of the company's effort to reduce emissions by 25 percent, said CEO Michael Levine.  "We are adding CNG-powered vehicles to our fleet in order to reduce the effective cost of fuel for our drivers, and to introduce cleaner vehicles for the environment," said Levine.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Fred Sweets, of St. Louis American Cab recently ordered his first Transit Connect Taxi that will be modified to run on CNG. But before buying one, Sweets said he conducted his own research by asking users of the standard Transit Connect, such as flower delivery businesses, about their experiences with the small commercial van."I asked them how they liked it, what their mileage was, and how it was holding up," said Sweets. "I got nothing but praise for the vehicle. I knew then that I had to add it to our fleet."

On the East Coast, in Connecticut, Metro Taxi of West Haven and Yellow Cab Company of Hartford have ordered a total of 70 CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis, which will be in service by the end of summer.

In addition, city officials in Philadelphia, the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States, have approved the CNG Transit Connect Taxi for use on its streets. The city regulates the types of vehicles that can be used as taxis. To be approved, a vehicle must meet basic size requirements for headroom, legroom and cargo space.

"The Ford CNG Transit Connect Taxi has many great features of interest to the riding public," said James Ney, Director, Taxicab & Limousine Division, Philadelphia Parking Authority. "Its abbreviated footprint makes it perfect for use on our narrow, congested streets here in Philadelphia."

For more information, visit the Ford Transit Connect Taxi website.

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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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