A small fleet of Ford Transit Connect taxis fueled by compressed natural gas will hit Chicago's streets in March.
Taxi Medallion Management, a Chicago company that operates Yellow Cab, Checker and Blue Diamond taxis in Chicago, bought 12 of the vehicles. The Transit Connects will be labeled as Yellow Cabs.
The purchase is part of the company's goal of reducing emissions 25 percent, Michael Levine, Taxi Medallion Management CEO, said in a statement.
“We are adding vehicles with more fuel-efficient gasoline engines, as well as vehicles with alternative-fuel sources, to find a vehicle mix that best suits our customers, our drivers, the city at large and the environment,” Levine said. “We are excited about testing this new vehicle.”
The company also operates a small fleet of Scion xBs, also badged as Yellow Cabs.
Packey Webb Ford of Downers Grove, Ill., will deliver the taxis to Taxi Medallion Management.
Ford and Ford dealers do not supply ready-to run CNG-fueled vehicles.The powertain is prepared by Ford to operate on CNG. However, the taxi company will take each vehicle to an outfitter for the tanks and the installation.
The taxi package includes a repositioned second-row seat that offers more passenger legroom, grab handles and a rear ventilation system with passenger controls. For the driver, features include a rearview camera and backup sensor, heavy-duty battery and wiring block connector to power accessories.
The Ford Crown Victoria has been the vehicle of choice for many taxi operators. That vehicle will be discontinued this year.
Fuel economy has been an issue with the body-on-frame Crown Victoria. That car is rated at 16 mpg city/24 highway. The base Transit Connect is equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine rated at 21 city/26 highway.
In addition to CNG, the taxi package is available with an engine preparation package for conversion to liquefied propane gas.