C & H Taxi adds Toyota Prius to fleet

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C & H Taxi adds Toyota Prius to fleet

C & H Taxi Toyota Prius

A cab company in Charleston is going green and saving it too, now that the Toyota Prius is part of its fleet.

C & H Taxi CEO Jeb Corey said he had been looking into alternative fuel vehicles for the past few years.

“We have cars on the road 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it adds up to millions of miles every year,” he said. “We really wanted to do our part to help the environment, and do a better job serving the public at the same time.”

The two hybrid “ecoride” vehicles were outfitted with the necessary equipment and hit the streets in May. Corey wanted to start with two to test them out in the West Virginia hills.

“We need cars that are going to last for 300,000 to 350,000 miles. If they don’t hold up they won’t work well in a fleet. We don’t want to be replacing expensive parts all the time,” Corey said, “Cab owners across the country are getting high mileage out of the Prius. But we have different terrain, elevation, and rough winters. We’ll see how it stands up to a year of the different seasons before we add any more.”

So far, the response has been positive from both drivers and the community. Drivers lease their cabs from the company and pay for their own gas. The two drivers with the hybrid cars are expected to save $3,280 in fuel costs in a year. A Prius gets 50 miles per gallon, compared to the 15 mile-per-gallon Ford Crown Victorias that make up the rest of the 30-car fleet. Passengers love the additional leg room and smoother ride a Prius provides, as well as more flexibility in trips.

“Drivers don’t like to drive 20 miles to transport someone one mile,” Corey said. “But the drivers using these vehicles are more willing to go to all four corners of Kanawha County and beyond.”

While many car models boast high gas mileage, Corey said the Prius is the cream of the crop when it comes to hybrids, and made the most sense for his company. Drivers do pay more to lease a Prius mainly because of higher insurance costs, but can recoup those costs and more in fuel savings.

“The 50 mile-per-gallon point is the breaking point where the driver can pay more for the lease and still put more money in his pocket,” he said. “Thirty or 40 miles to the gallon doesn’t cut it.”

Corey will decide next year whether to add more hybrids to the fleet. “It’s too expensive to replace all 30 cars at once, so we’ll do two at a time. And we’re always looking at what else is out there, whether it’s natural gas, propane, or hydrogen. The Prius works for us because the fueling infrastructure is there.”

C & H Taxi is also looking at other ways to cut down on gas consumption and fumes in the atmosphere.

“We have a new computerized dispatching system that uses GPS to find the driver that’s closest to the customer. We’re working on an app for smartphones that will make things faster,” Corey said. “These are small things but they add up when you’re looking at dozens of cars and all the miles we drive.”

For now, it’s the hybrid cars that have been a big boost not only for drivers’ wallets, but also their morale.

“We’ve started to see a change in the company culture in the last few months,” Corey said. “The drivers love the vehicles, and we’ve had more compliments for our service than ever before.”

Customers can call in and request the “ecoride” cars. Rates are the same as the rest of the fleet.

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