- Published: Saturday, 05 November 2016 15:49
The things that make the Toyota Prius a superb urban vehicle in Singapore also make it excel as a taxi
You may have noticed a trend lately, the fact that taxis are becoming quieter and nicer to ride in. Some, though not all, no longer roar past in a cloud of smoke, most silent except for the sound of tyres going over tarmac.
In other words, more and more conventional taxis right here in Singapore are being replaced with the world’s most successful hybrid, the Toyota Prius.
Statistics from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) show that out of the 28,259 taxis in 2015, 1,889 were hybrids. The vast majority of these are Toyota Prius, and in the past month or two, you may even have seen the latest, fourth-generation Prius already in the business of sending people from place to place.
While they account for less than seven percent of the total taxi population, in 2005, the number of hybrid taxis on the road was precisely zero. What’s changed? Well besides an increasing awareness of environmental issues, it seems taxi companies are merely catching on to what a small group of savvy drivers have long known: that the Toyota Prius is a perfect vehicle for Singapore’s urban jungle, and here are five reasons why.
1. The Prius excels in stop-and-go traffic
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, which powers the Prius, recoups energy from slowing down or braking and charges the battery pack with it. That energy is then used to drive the car emissions-free at low speed. In other words, the Prius is designed to be driven in an urban setting, and is far better than a conventional car at the whole business of cruising along slowly with frequent stops, especially in and around town. Hmm, that sounds familiar - isn’t that exactly what a taxi does all day long?
2. It delivers great fuel efficiency consistently
The Prius is one of the very few vehicles that can deliver - or better - its mileage claims. In this case, a vaguely astonishing 3.7L/100km. We should know because we’ve tried it and done so easily. The hybrid nature of the car means it’s great at the slow stuff (see point 1) while its Atkinson cycle engine means it still sips fuel even on the highway. It’s surprising taxi companies didn’t catch on to this earlier, but they have now. What’s more impressive is that despite the fact that diesel fuel is subsidised here, and modern diesel engines are also very frugal, the petrol-powered Prius taxi is obviously a successful business case. A small fuel bill is something that doesn’t just make business owners smile.
3. It reduces local pollution significantly
Because of the hybrid system, the Prius is able to operate on electric power alone for considerable periods - as much as 60 percent in our own experience. As a result, a Prius emits much less local air pollution than a conventional car does, and far less than a diesel car. We’re all too familiar with that unpleasant chemical aroma that lingers around taxi stands - with Prius taxis the extent of that is far less, as it’s proven that hybrids reduce smog and local air pollution by up to 90 percent.
4. They’re oh-so-quiet and smooth
If you’ve ever been on a late-night carouse and taken a normal taxi home, chances are your family - or even your neighbours - may have had something to say about it that same morning. But a Prius, for the reasons mentioned, can creep around silently and even when its engine is on, it’s hardly noticeable. Riding in a hybrid is also a much more pleasant experience because they’re naturally quiet, smoother and subject to less vibrations since the engine is on much less frequently. In fact a study conducted by the University of Rome has shown that the current Prius spends an average of 79.4 percent of its urban journey time producing no emissions or noise. Just remember not to slam the door when you get out.
5. The Prius is tried and tested technology
The Toyota Prius is the world’s best-selling hybrid: It’s been around for 19 years, with 3.73-million units sold as of April 2016. That sort of success isn’t a coincidence, and it’s partly because Toyota has built-in the sort of reliability and ruggedness you’d expect from any other Toyota right into the Prius from the very start. The hybrid system also leads to less mechanical wear, such as on brake pads, which further reduce cost of ownership. And the Prius is tough in the long run too: A second-gen Prius that’s covered more than 320,000km is still putting in nearly the same efficiency figures as it did when new. Plus, passenger car Prius models sold in Singapore get a 10-year battery warranty supported by authorised distributor Borneo Motors - that’s twice as long as most car makers warranty their engines for!
Toyota Prius : By The Numbers
Number of Toyota Prius sold globally from 1997 to 2016, making it the world’s most popular hybrid car
Average time of any journey a Toyota Prius spends in zero emission mode
The number of times a Prius can drive across Singapore on one tank of fuel, or 57km between Changi Coast to the Second Link
Carbon dioxide emissions of the Toyota Prius
Carbon dioxide emissions of the average diesel-powered taxi
1,780kg less - The amount of CO2 emitted over one kilometer if Singapore’s taxi fleet was made up entirely of Prius taxis.
6 to 8 times
Amount of NOx (nitrogen oxides) diesel cars emit compared to hybrids. NOx causes health problems and lung damage in humans.
Number of European third-gen Prius cars requiring new brake pads when the fourth-gen model was launched
Sources for data:
Land Transport Authority (LTA) Singapore
Worldwatch Institute http://www.worldwatch.org/node/579
The Economist - The Dieselgate Dilemma
The Guardian - diesel vs hybrid