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Green Cabs in Calgary

Posted by Blake Nijs on May 20 at 12:00 AM  There are a few hybrid cabs in Calgary but not nearly enough.  The question I have for the city of Calgary is why it is taking so long to become environmentally friendly?  Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto both have developed hybrid services that are already taking the steps towards becoming greener. 

Looking at the average vehicle prices, a base line Toyota Prius costs $27,800(1) compared to an ordinary Calgarian taxi such as a Chevrolet Impala, which starts at $27,320(2).  There is really no difference in price. 

The clear defining factor is the litres per kilometer specifications and over all greenhouse gas emissions.   The Toyota Prius boasts an impressive 3.8 litres per 100 kilometers while the Chevrolet Impala runs with an average 10.8 litres per 100 kilometers.   Now I personally do not have a vendetta against the North American auto manufacturers, nor do I have an extreme affection for import automobiles.  The simple truth is that cabs are on the road or idling constantly.  Any trip to the airport during colder months, which in Calgary is eight months of the year, will find hundreds of cabs idling. 

Clean Air Cabs, of Ahwatukee Arizona, has a fleet of 26 Prius cabs(3).  With their small fleet, they claim to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1800 tonnes, as compared to traditional cabs.  If 26 cabs were able to make such an impact, what would be the reduction in emissions if even one Calgary cab company were to fully adopt hybrid vehicles? 

So with this all considered the questions that I have for Calgary are: 

Is the reason that Green Cabs have not caught on in Calgary is because of our oil driven economy? 

How come smaller cities such as Victoria have already implemented these plans? 

Shouldn’t this issue impact the Calgary Airport Authority’s decision on which taxi company gets the airport contract? 

Let me know what you think!

(1) Unknown. (2010). Toyota prius. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/26al5p3

(2) Unknown. (2008, November 24). 2009 Chevrolet Impala Buyer's Guide. Retrieved from http://www.carpages.ca/article/2008/11/24/2009-chevrolet-impala-buyer-s-guide

(3) Unknown. (2009). Clean air cabs. Retrieved from http://www.unep.org/climateneutral/Default.aspx?tabid=940#about


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6 Comments so far...

I really think the question in regards to the YYC contract is a great point. If the city is serious about environmental responsibility the cab company who get the new contract should be mandated to have a hybrid/EV component.

Posted by Jason Warnock on May 21 at 8:32 AM

Would cab companies have contracts with certain car manufacturers? maybe they aren't able to switch car manufacurers. Chevy needs to come out with a hybrid vechicle simular to Toyotas.

Posted by B on May 21 at 10:50 AM

You raise a couple of good points and some tough questions Blake. I feel that the general answer to all three of your questions is more about politics than prudence.

As you alluded to, resource energy is a large contributor to the economy in Calgary and, of course, Alberta. It would seem that large resource companies, such as Encana, Nexen, Imperial Oil, BP, and so on, would have financial incentive to ensure that hybrid or electric vehicles do not go mainstream.

One hypothesis from the 2006 documentary 'Who Killed the Electric Car' (see:http://www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com) is that oil companies are largely responsible for its demise because of fears of losing 'trillions' in retail fuel sales.

I can't speak to the motives of oil companies in the mid 1990's but can say that many oil companies invest significant dollars into clean tech and renewable energy. You might be surprised that BP has invested in wind farms, solar, hydrogen and bio fuels (http://tinyurl.com/3x3t6gf). Encana has invested in clean technologies for better use of electricity and natural gas while investing in hydro power projects (http://tinyurl.com/35yapza).

Consider the municipal government in Victoria and provincial government in BC... both (along with the state of California) have passed legislation that favors improvements in environmental performance. I feel that this legislation is easier to pass because their economies depend less on oil and gas production (being net importers of energy). Not that Alberta places any less importance on environmental performance, just that AB has different risks.

A large part of the policy discussion is about a balanced approach or Triple Bottom Line (3BL); People, Planet, Profit. It's very difficult to predict the effect of policy changes on all three factors. Just take a look at the changes to royalties last year in Alberta and what the results were.

Although the simple answers might be policy, politics and culture, the Green Cabs in Calgary discussion is no easy answer.

Posted by Stacy Richter on May 25 at 12:03 AM

One of the barriers to electric cars in municipalities is infrastructure for frequent and timely recharging. Also the same issue preventing mass adoption amoung consumers. Electric cars can only go so far on one charge and can take several hours to charge again.

Clearly, these are significant interruptions. I received some info from Matt Youens (@MattYouens) on twitter. He directed me to Better Place (www.betterplace.com, @btrplc). This is an organization providing infrastructure to provide fully charged batteries to electric vehicles in approximately 60 seconds.

They launched the first taxi in Tokyo, Japan. Make sure you check it out. There are also pilot developments in Toronto, ON.

Posted by Stacy Richter on May 25 at 11:58 PM

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