Cab with a conscience

Bryan Gabbard

Photo By Marisol Salgado

Becoming environmentally conscious could be just a phone call away—literally. Catching a ride with Ecocab, an “Environmentally Friendly Taxi Service” in Chico, means sitting in a 1978, or 1984, Mercedes 300D and listening to 34-year-old Bryan Gabbard “lecture” about environmentally friendly choices, all while listening to The Dave Matthews Band and Burning Spear. After being a pedicabber for two years Gabbard, a Chico State graduate student, wanted to create a business that was environmentally conscious while still being economically viable. Gabbard’s reduced-emission Ecocab runs on vegetable oil. Ecocab is so popular that it sometimes has a wait time of 40 to 50 minutes. But not to worry, Gabbard is in the process of getting his second environmentally friendly Mercedes on the road.

How did you come up with this concept?

Mark Stemen was my chair for geography at Chico State. He’s a strong environmentalist so I became a lot more … eco-conscious. In one of Mark’s classes we were talking about green businesses and how things could run in a more sustainable way as far as business goes. There are a lot of people who are trying to get behind the environmental movement. By getting a ride home from Ecocab, they feel like they’re making a more sustainable choice as far as transportation goes. Ecocab is environmentally stable but I can also make some money from it.

How are your cabs able to run on vegetable oil?

Basically, I just ordered a kit online. There are several different Web sites that have kits for diesel cars. You find your model and make, get the kit, and put it in. It took me about three days to install the kit and it cost about $1,000. But now I don’t have to pay for gas.

Where do you get the vegetable oil?

Several restaurants in town donate their fryer oil to me. So, there’s really no cost for the oil itself besides the time it takes for me to filter and bring it home and get it into my tank. It’s pretty cheap. By eliminating fuel as one of my expenses, I’m able to out-compete the competition without even trying.

Where will Ecocab be in the future?

I want to get at least three cabs going in Chico. After that, I’m going to service mark my business and then franchise it to college towns. Hopefully I can spread this throughout the United States. I think it’s time the consumer has a choice in the market of whether to take the gas-guzzling Crown Victoria or take the 30 percent reduced-emission Ecocab. I think that just giving them that choice makes them more aware of the environmental issues we face in the near future. I think it’s a positive step in the right direction on all counts, both business and personal. I’m a firm believer that one man can make a difference. My goal is to single-handedly transform the transportation industry.