Swapping pseudo-police cruisers for Priuses

The Crown Vic’s days are numbered at Groome Transportation. And in addition to reducing pollution, that means Richmond motorists can stop slowing down when they mistake Groome’s Crown Victorias for police cruisers. (Click here to read a funny satire post about that.)

Within the next six months, the local limo/shuttle company plans to go completely green and save some green by replacing its fleet of cars with hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.

“By February 2011, we’re hoping to have all [Toyota] Prius cars,” said Chris Groome, the company’s vice president of safety and service. “Our goal is to provide safe and reliable transportation in the greenest way possible.”

Groome, which has been in business since 1947, began its environmentally friendly transition in September and has replaced four
of its Ford Crown Victorias with Toyota Prius hybrids. It will invest in 12 hybrids and is working to convert its fleet of vans and mini-buses to run on propane fuel. It has 40 vehicles in its Richmond fleet.

Besides improving the environment, going green could eventually help Groome improve its bottom line. The Prius gets 51 mpg in city driving and 48 mpg on the highway.

“We anticipate reducing our fuel cost on this segment of our fleet,” Groome said.

Although the fuel savings might be noticeable, a full transition to hybrid vehicles isn’t cheap in the short term. According to Virginia Clean Cities’ green fleet buying guide, a Toyota Prius is about $21,000. Groome said the company will spend around $200,000 to change over its fleet.

There are also some financial incentives Groome is pursuing to help fund the transition. It applied for an $80,000 grant from Virginia Clean Cities to help switch its vans and mini-buses over to propane.

Groome Transportation isn’t the first car service company in the area to switch from regular cars to more eco-friendly wheels.

Richmond Bio Taxi is a sustainable taxi service run by brothers Jeff and Joey Anderson. They came up with the idea to use cooking oil from local restaurants and convert it to bio-diesel fuel using a Mercedes E-class sedan. (Read more about their story here.) They’ve since added a second VW.

Although BioTaxi has been up and running since June 2010, Groome said Groome Transportation didn’t choose to start going green because of competition.

“They weren’t even on our radar,” Groome said of Bio Taxi. “We wanted our customers to have the same comfortable riding experience — just a greener, more cost-effective one.”

Groome said it hopes its new fleet will eventually attract more business.

“People aren’t requesting it yet, but they like having a green ride and have been pleased after using the Prius.”

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