Half of Finland’s hybrid taxis operate in Helsinki region
Recession slows trend to change to hybrids
An increasing number of taxis operating in Helsinki are hybrids, combining electricity and an internal combustion engine as a power source. Nearly 100 hybrid taxis are operating in Finland, about half of which are in the Helsinki region.
Most of the hybrids used as taxis are Toyota Prius models. The first of them were sold in 2004, says Robert Swanljung, head of sales at Toyota corporate car sales.
Swanljung says that an actual spike in sales came at the end of 2007 when the basis car taxation was changed to favour low emissions.
One of the drivers of a hybrid Prius model is Markku Vihkola, who has driven a taxi in Helsinki for more than 30 years. He switched over to the new technology slightly over a year ago, encouraged by the experiences of a colleague.
“My friend is on his third hybrid. The need for servicing has proven to be smaller than usual”, Vihko says.
Fuel consumption is also about half of that of a regular taxi.
“This also has a smaller carbon footprint, with the grandchildren in mind. But I would be lying if I said that it was the only reason to change.”
A distinguishing feature of a hybrid is a display on the dashboard that indicates how much energy the car is consuming at any time.
When the brake is applied, the car charges the battery, which is used as the energy source at low speeds. At higher speeds, the internal combustion engine comes into use. At motorway speeds, the car only uses the internal combustion engine.
“Many customers feel that all taxis should be hybrids.”
Vihko says that it will be a long time before that happens. His previous car was also a Toyota, which means that changing to a hybrid was relatively easy for him. This is not the case for many taxi drivers.
“There are plenty of guys with a Mercedes.”
The recession has slowed the trend to move toward hybrids. Last year 64 Prius hybrids were bought for use as taxis. This year only 38 had been sold by the end of November.
“Business has decreased by a third. When times are bad, people cannot afford to make investments”, Vihko says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Number of new car registrations soars after tax cuts (4.1.2008)
Helsinki may introduce hybrid buses already next year (10.12.2007)
Many alternatives developed for petrol (14.6.2005)