NEW YORK – The greening of the nation’s largest taxi fleet accelerates with pledges by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. to deliver more hybrid cabs to the Big Apple in coming months.

In a city hall ceremony, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says the three auto makers will “help New York breathe easier.”

Ford will provide 50 Escape Hybrids per month to the project, while GM will supply 50 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrids. Nissan has pledged to deliver 200 Altima Hybrids per month. New York already has 1,286 hybrid taxis, about 10% of the 13,227 cabs that cruise the city daily.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission requires all new cabs entering service after Oct. 1 (except those that are accessible to the disabled) achieve an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km). By October 2009, the city mandates a city EPA rating of 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) for new taxis.

The TLC hopes to have an all-hybrid fleet by 2012, as 210 hybrid vehicles per month will be pressed into service.

Currently, the Escape Hybrid dominates the city’s hybrid taxi fleet, says Gerald Koss, Ford’s fleet manager. “We look forward to working with the TLC and Mayor Bloomberg to continue to help meet their transportation needs and sustainability goals,” he says.

Bob Bothfield, Chevrolet executive zone manager, says GM is eager to expose local cab riders to the Malibu Hybrid.

Hybrid cabs here have racked up an 85% inspection passing rate, compared with 54% for conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, the TLC says.

The TLC says hybrid taxi owners will save $4,000-$11,000 annually in gasoline purchases. Overall, the TLC says the industry will save up to $140 million annually in fuel outlay.