TEMPE, Ariz. — EnviroCar, a new hybrid transportation service in the Phoenix area was recently profiled in the region’s local news.
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Most people who reach the age of 50 start thinking about how to prepare for retirement. Jim Whiteside was ready to start a whole new career. Whiteside sold his interest in a medical supply company after 30 years in that business and started a chauffeured hybrid-vehicle transportation service in May.
Tempe-based EnviroCar is a cross between a taxi and limousine service, offering trips around the Valley to clients who schedule rides in the company's fuel-efficient Prius and Lexus hybrid cars.
"I felt this was a business we have a need for in Phoenix with our air pollution problems," he said. "It's a socially responsible business, which caught my interest."
Most of Whiteside's corporate and individual clients use the service for rides to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. But he said others are using it for such activities as a dinner out, trips to sports venues or shuttling children to and from school. Some couples are even using it for "green" weddings, he said.
Alternative-fuel transportation services are becoming more common as environmentally conscious riders seek to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. Some taxis serving Sky Harbor run on natural gas, and the SuperShuttle airport van fleet also uses natural gas.
Also, a student entrepreneur at Arizona State University has received a grant to start what the university claims will be the state's first sustainable taxi cab company operating a fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.
But Whiteside thinks his sedan service is at the cutting-edge of environmentally responsible transportation.
"We are getting a good reaction," he said. "Some customers say they are using us primarily because we are a green service."
Not all of Whiteside's customers are environmentally inclined. Mesa resident Lyle Parker, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, and his wife used the service to go to and from Sky Harbor for a vacation cruise, but he said he was attracted more by the price and service quality than the car's method of propulsion.
"We're a little bit cynical about that," he said of advertised environmental advantages of hybrids. But he added "the car was new, it was nice and it held our larger bags."
With just two vehicles and three employees, Whiteside is starting small, but he plans to grow the business as demand requires. He said business is already starting to pick up as fall approaches.
"We took the summer to work out the kinks and polish up for the real season," he said. "Now we're picking up more corporate-type work."
A trip to Sky Harbor from downtown Mesa is $39 one way in the Prius, and from downtown Scottsdale to the airport costs $35. The Lexus SUV is about 20 percent more.
SOURCE: East Valley Tribune - Ed Taylor