Hybrid vehicles survived intact on the mean streets of New York and San Francisco. Designed as a pilot program, these hybrid vehicles were introduced as taxis in two of the roughest driving towns in the U.S.

As the 30 San Francisco Escape Hybrid taxis are beginning to hit the 100,000-mile milestone, owners and drivers report:

Fuel savings between $20 and $31 over the traditional, full-size sedan cabs per 150- to 300-mile shifts. Air conditioning cost on hot days: $5 a shift, about half the sedan-version cost. Brakes are lasting twice as long. The reason: The electric engine acts as a second braking system, taking much of the load off the conventional friction brakes, says Tom Watson, Ford Hybrid Electric Vehicle Propulsion System engineering manager, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Programs. Several water pumps blew at the 50,000-mile mark, a situation that’s been rectified, say Watson and San Francisco cab company owners. No legroom complaints from customers, who seem delighted by the novelty of the hybrid and by doing the right thing for the planet.

In New York, it’s too soon to tell the full benefits of the hybrid taxis, but they’ve already proven to be popular with cabbies and their customers, says Matthew W. Daus, head of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Getting the first hybrid cabs onto the streets of New York was a joint effort among the City Council, the taxi commission, and community and environmental groups.

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