Meet Santa Cruz County’s first hybrid taxi driver
About eight weeks ago, Santa Cruz cabbie Michael Williams decided to follow the lead of major cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He purchased a used Ford Escape Hybrid for use as the first hybrid taxi in Santa Cruz County. The investment, he says, is a step towards saving the environment, making taxi driving more efficient, and setting a positive example for major cab companies like his employer, Yellow Cab. An independent cab company, Green Cab, already provides the town with eco-friendly biodiesel taxis, but Williams’ cab is unique in that it’s a hybrid.
After intensive research, Williams is certain that his initial investment of $14,000 will pay off. Compared to his old SUV, which got 12 to 18 miles per gallon, the hybrid gets up to twice as much and will save him about $5,000 per year on gas. Hybrid cars get this lower gas mileage because of the additional electric motor that operates whenever the driving speed is below 30 miles per hour. Due to the low gas usage, Williams’ taxi leaves an extremely low carbon footprint and is also, he adds, probably the most economic vehicle for a cabbie. Besides saving on gas, Williams is able to drive around downtown to look for costumers rather than having to wait for them, which is especially advantageous on slow days.
The 58 year-old, who loves driving in Santa Cruz because of the scenery and the people, notes that, “as a cabbie you wear many hats.” He recalls a night where he had to deliver food from McDonalds; the time a young man took a drive for the sole purpose of talking about his breakup; and an incident in which he had to chase a group of drunks into a bar because they wouldn’t pay the fare. Now, as the first hybrid taxi driver, he has also become a role model for other drivers and cab companies, who might invest in hybrid cars in the future.