California Operators Grapple With Growing “Green Zone”

LCT Staff
Posted on April 21, 2010

Another major California airport is trying to mandate green-only vehicles regardless of available models, customer preferences, or fueling points.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — California operators could be facing some of the most draconian green regulations in the next few years unless they can get two major airports to adopt more flexible approaches.

San Diego International Airport is the second airport behind San Francisco International to require all chauffeured vehicles accessing airport property to be green; at the San Diego airport, by 2017, and at SFO, by 2012.

Details of the San Diego requirements were divulged at an April 13 meeting of the GREATER CALIFORNIA LIVERY ASSOCIATION in San Diego. Airport officials have told GCLA representatives that livery vehicles accessing the airport to drop off and pick up clients must get at least 45 mpg, whether they are hybrids, CNG, or bio-fueled clean diesel. That mileage requirement at this point would exclude even the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid, a compact and a mid-sized sedan that get mileage in the low 40s and do not qualify as traditional black vehicles typical of luxury chauffeured transportation.

Details of the SFO green vehicle plan are available in A PREVIOUS LCT E-NEWS ARTICLE HERE.

The GCLA is concerned that whether such mandates go into effect in 2012, 2017, or sometime in between, there will not be any viable luxury vehicles that meet such stringent requirements nor will metro regions have adequate infrastructure in place to accommodate the frequent 24/7 alternative fueling needs of livery vehicles. For example, the Lincoln Town Car Executive L model, which can be converted to CNG, is being discontinued by Ford after the 2011 model year. Ford has yet announced a successor model for the livery market.

“Our attitude is that basically you’re going to drive us out of the luxury transportation business by these mandates,” said Alan Shanedling, president of the GCLA. “Or it will be so expensive” as to not be worthwhile, he added.

The conversion of one gasoline Lincoln Town Car to CNG fuel capability costs about $15,000. Shanedling pointed out that his two CNG Town Cars need to be refueled every 150 miles at limited locations since the chauffeurs do not want to risk driving the vehicles up to the 300-mile maximum fuel range without being within a short proximity to a fueling station.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, several operators with CNG-fueled Town Cars have experienced mechanical problems and breakdowns, and hassles getting timely replacement parts, Shanedling said. “That doesn’t put a lot of faith in going to CNG as the primary fuel.”

The GCLA’s position is that it can support such green mandates only if automakers provide large luxury green vehicles that the meet mileage requirements and energy providers build an adequate infrastructure for alternative fueling stations.

In the case of San Diego, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority had originally intended for the mandate to apply only to taxicabs, shuttles, and buses accessing the airport, but not luxury chauffeured vehicles, Shanedling said. But the authority decided in late 2009 to add livery vehicles to the mandate.

GCLA lobbyists and representatives plan to set up meetings and/or hearings with airport staff at both the San Francisco and San Diego airports in coming months to talk about their concerns and discuss any possible modifications to the mandates.

“(San Diego) told us that every year they will sit down with the industry and review what vehicles are out there, what the infrastructure is, and whether we can even comply with the rules that are in place,” Shanedling said.

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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