Ford, Nissan and GM are all vying to be hailed as the builder of the “Taxi of Tomorrow.”
The auto giants were among the companies that submitted proposals to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to become the exclusive manufacturer of New York’s 13,000 yellow cabs starting in 2014.
When city officials met with the manufacturers in January, officials said they wanted the new cab to be not only low emission, if not entirely electric, but to possess an “iconic” New York design, according to Crain’s New York Business.
The new cab should appear “small on the outside but large on the inside,” one official said at the meeting.
“We want people to be able to look at this cab and, in a glance, say, ‘New York City.’ ”
The current fleet is a mishmash of 16 different vehicle models, most notably the soon-to-be-discontinued Ford Crown Victoria, which accounts for two-thirds of all cabs.
Despite the city’s original hope to have a new taxicab design, the manufacturers made it clear early on that they would rather adapt an existing vehicle model.
Although the TLC would not discuss the individual proposals, the manufacturers seem to be leaning toward a modern minivan type that is roomy but not necessarily fully handicapped accessible.
City officials are now reviewing the proposals, which include hybrid, natural-gas and all-electric designs.
“We might be able to pick a winner, or we might have to narrow it down to a few and go back to the manufacturers,” TLC Chairman David Yassky said.
The Transit Connect, Ford’s 22-mpg commercial vehicle, gets considerably better mileage than the Crown Victorias it will replace next year, but the city has even more ambitious fuel-economy goals, said Yassky, without going into detail.
The cars being proposed by all the manufacturers can be built to run on compressed natural gas. Alternative-fuel or electric cars would require a major investment, industry sources said.
Nissan and Ford both expect to have electric cabs ready next year.
The city has not decided on its preferred fuel at this point, Yassky said.
Other features could include doors equipped with flashing lights to warn approaching cyclists they’re about to be opened.
The city may not commit to any of the proposed designs and could start its search over if officials are not happy with the results of the competition.
However, industry sources say the goal is to have the new vehicles on the road before Mayor Bloomberg’s term is over.