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Done your bit for the environment lately? You might have if you hailed a cab in New York recently. That’s because the city has jumped to the fore of the green revolution by converting its iconic—but gas-guzzling—yellow cabs into what will soon be the world’s biggest hybrid fleet.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) introduced the first hybrids into their fleet of 13,000 three years ago; today there are about 500, though the numbers are growing quickly. Several 2008 Nissan (NSANY) Altima Hybrids joined the club and by 2012, every one of the city’s yellow taxis will be hybrids.

And that’s just the beginning. Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that the city’s fleet of 10,000 livery, or so-called black cabs—typically gas-guzzling Lincoln (F) Town Cars—join their yellow (and now green) kin by 2013.

“It will be the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis anywhere on the planet,” Bloomberg said in announcing the initiative.

Aside from cutting down on carbon monoxide pollution, the new generation of taxis will save their owners about $5,000 in gas costs annually. With the price of oil settled north of the $100 mark, isn’t it time everyone got in on the act?

The auto industry is investing heavily in hybrid and alternative-fuel technologies, with results that are rendering moot the arguments against buying hybrids: Their lack of power, higher sticker costs and diminished size and range.

“People are definitely interested in the hybrids, which is a significant shift,” says Aaron Bragman, an auto industry research analyst with Global Insight in Detroit. “The Prius outsold some other popular cars this year, which demonstrates a big consumer shift. As long as there’s no trade-off, they’re willing to accept these new kinds of technologies”

The playing field is leveling fast. And as hybrid prices come down and gas prices go up, the extra money you’ll put in your pocket will only grow. How much can you save?

Well, for starters, before you even drive your new green car off the lot, Uncle Sam will give you a leg up by offering a federal income tax credit to new hybrid buyers. The size of the credit ranges from $650 to $3,400, depending on the vehicle. For a complete list, visit the Department of Energy’s site on fuel economy. Most states also offer their own incentives to go green.

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But ultimately, it’s at the pump that you’ll really notice the difference. Unless you drive as much as a New York City cabbie (i.e. all the time), your annual savings at the pump won’t reach $5000, but $1000 is a safe bet for most.

Consider this: If you drive 15,000 miles-a-year and buy gas at $3-a-gallon, just a five-mpg difference adds up to $300. So, switching from that Town Car to an Altima will leave four times that in your pocket. As oil prices go up, so will your savings. Find out exactly how much you’ll save by using this mileage impact calculator.

Which hybrid to buy depends entirely on your needs, and there’s a growing array of options out there. Toyota’s (TM) Prius is still by far the best-selling hybrid (this year it became one of the top ten selling cars overall), but the Altima and Ford Escape are also popular choices.

The Internet is full of practical advice to prospective hybrid buyers. Two sites with useful information can be found here and here.

Have fun shopping, and get ready to be happy at the pump!

Related Links:

Here's How To Save Cash By Going Green

Detroit Auto Show Goes Green

How Green Is Your Hummer?