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Quite simply, “going green” can be summarized in four words – reduce, reuse, recover, and recycle. Operators are scrambling to fulfill the Four Rs, using programmable thermostats, adding blue recycle cans, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, and buying alternative-fuel vehicles.
WHEN LCT ASKED operators around the country what going green meant to them, the answers varied widely. Most focused their answers around their fleet vehicles, citing various types of hybrids, compressed natural gas, and technology that has not been fully developed, such as methane-gas powered vehicles. (Ah, fart-mobiles?)
Movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz have helped popularize “green” vehicles by owning such alternative-fuel vehicles, and demanding livery companies provide the same when traveling around the nation or arriving at red-carpet events. However, there is a general consensus that the auto industry has not yet perfected vehicles suitable for being classified as a “luxury vehicle,” with the exception of the Cadillac Escalade, the Mercedes R-320, Lexus 400h and GS450h, and the GM Tahoe and Yukon models.
“I can never see any hybrid model cars making it into the limo industry other than the Tahoe, Yukon, or Escalade,” says Charles Kuritz, owner of Westfield Limousine Service in Westfield, N.J. “Even if they use a Camry, there is room for two people with luggage, and this is not luxury at all.”
Tim Wiegman Jr. of Boulevard Limousine in Kansas City, Mo., echoed the thoughts of Kuritz: “The current technology, especially gasoline hybrids like the Prius, Mariner, and Tahoe are not all they can be. I would really like to see vehicles that operate off propane or better yet, methane. We have all these landfills that produce methane. Let’s capture that gas and use it to power our vehicles.”
According to CNet.com, Toyota will begin testing an all battery vehicle for use around town toward the end of this year. Meanwhile, its popular Prius hybrid received rave reviews from most consumers, but industry operators loathe it. The limited seating capacity of two passengers, constricted luggage space, and engine performance rules it out as a viable, heavy-duty livery vehicle. Toyota plans to have an all battery model on the market by 2012, according to CNet.
Heaven on Wheels Limousine in Dallas was asked to provide a large SUV hybrid vehicle for a two-day job. They first went hunting at local rental companies to find the vehicle for the job. Rentals are legal in Texas, says Joshua Roman, owner of Heaven on Wheels. It was so difficult to find that Roman decided to buy an E-85 Flex Fuel Suburban to allow him to fill the niche of those seeking an alternative fuel or hybrid vehicle. E-85 is a mixture of ethanol and gasoline, and is primarily made from corn.
Other companies such as New York Limousines based in New York City have switched their base models from Lincoln Town Cars with eight cylinders to Chrysler 300s with six cylinders. The main goal was to save fuel in this move without compromising comfort of passengers, owner Mark Boryska says.
Yet others have resisted going green at all, citing logical reasons. Bill Payne of American Limousine LLC in Fort Mill, S.C., wonders why any operator would buy an E-85 vehicle given that both the vehicle and ethanol cost more compared to the costs of combustion engine vehicles and fuel while delivering 15% to 25% less fuel efficiency — just to save on some carbon emissions. Payne asks that since the E-85 fuel is only marginally cleaner than unleaded gasoline, and you burn more of it in a shorter distance, what is the real benefit? Also, E-85 is sometimes difficult to find. However, the vehicles also can run on gasoline, hence the flex fuel vehicle (FFV) moniker.