Going Green!

Since 1990, Stillwater Taxi has safely delivered passengers and packages to their destinations. Until just a few years ago, the biggest expense was insurance. But with gas prices surging close to $4 a gallon- and a business that uses about 2,000 gallons per month--fuel costs have emerged as the biggest expense to keeping the companies fleet of six sedans and five vans rolling.

Last December as gas prices began their historic rise, owner Doug Luchsinger began to rethink the way he ran his business. Then, when the engine in one of his Ford Crown Victoria sedans unexpectedly failed and he needed to replace it, he decided to go small.


Taxis have historically tended to be large vehicles that can easily carry four adults and their luggage. But while it's nice to have a lot of capacity in each vehicle, Stillwater Taxi's average fare is just one or two people, so driving a Crown Vic doesn't always make the most sense.

With gas prices edging up and likely to go higher, Doug purchased his first Toyota Corolla. He knew other taxi companies had had good experiences with the smaller sedan, so he took a gamble on a more efficient vehicle despite a higher initial cost. He's since purchased another Corolla and is thinking of adding a hybrid Toyota Prius to his fleet.

"We've been buying retired Minnesota Highway Patrol Crown Victorias with about 100,000 miles on them for our taxis," says Doug. "They're nice cars, in good shape and we can usually drive them until they have about 350,000 miles."


The Corollas average about 30 mpg, compared to about 15 for the Crown Victorias they've replaced. Despite the higher initial cost, Doug figures he makes up the difference in cost during the first 100,000 miles. Driving the two Corollas instead of Crown Victorias saves about $55 per day- or slightly more than $20.000 in a year.

Stillwater Taxi customers have been pleased with the Corollas, and Doug has only heard good comments about them- the cars have a nice ride and the new car smell is definately a plus. And although his drivers were initially hesitant to drive a smaller car, most of them now want to drive one of the Corollas.

Other benefits include much better handling in snow compared to the rear-wheel drive Crown Victorias, and they emit half as much greenhouse gas per mile. In the past, Doug's drivers used to let their vehicles idle throughout their 10 to 12-hour shift. Now the drivers don't let them idle at all, saving fuel and further reducing pollution.

"The Corollas are great," says Doug. "I never thought we'd go to a smaller car, but it's been a great move and we'll probably get more in the future."

Article from Stillwater Living November 2008