Hybrids – Vehicles, Battery & Hydraulic Technology

Police Department Looks for Hybrid-Electric Police Cars, Settles on High-MPG Gas-Powered Cars

October 29, 2008

No auto manufacturer makes a gas-electric hybrid designed for police work. The city of Homer, Alaska found that out when its police department set out to replace three old Ford Crown Victoria cruisers, according to homernews.com.

When the Homer Police Department set out to replace three old Ford Crown Victoria cruisers, Lt. Randy Rosencrans looked into purchasing gas-electric hybrids. When Rosencrans found out new police gas-electric hybrids were not available, he went to hisnext-best alternative: a Chevrolet Impala police car. The Impala police car is a six-cylinder front-wheel drive sedan that gets 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway -- the highest mileage police vehicle available.

On Rosencrans’ recommendation, the Homer City Council last month approved piggy-backing on an order with the Anchorage Police Department, buying three new 2008 Impalas for $16,500 each, using fleet maintenance funds in the 2008 budget.

Turning a car into a police vehicle involves more than slapping on a decal, however. Homer PD cruisers have extra gear like light bars, prisoner partitions, rifle mounts, radios, radar and spotlights. The added electronics puts a strain on regular electrical systems.

Rosencrans looked into adapting gas-electric hybrids for a police car. The Aspen, Colo., police department uses the Toyota Highlander gas-electric hybrid, a mid-size sport utility vehicle. Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor told Rosencrans it cost $35,000 for a hybrid Highlander, with another $6,000 to outfit it. Although rated at 26 mpg, Aspen police said they got between 16 and 19 mpg once about 1,000 pounds of equipment had been added. Aspen also had problems with the electrical system, and with the help of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization, upgraded the Highlander battery system. Rosencrans said he learned the increased electrical drain affected mileage.

Rosencrans also looked at the Ford Escape hybrid SUV used by the Westwood, N.J., police department. Westwood reported its test vehicle got 28.9 mpg. Rosencrans looked at the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid, but it required a special order and would come with features like leather or velour seats not suited for police use. The Tahoe hybrid hasn't been engineered for police use, GM said.

Purchasing the fuel-efficient Impalas will save the city about $2,000 in fuel costs, Rosencrans wrote in a memo to the city council. He said fuel costs have doubled in the last 18 months. Police have made some changes in vehicle use, like not leaving a car running if it can stay warm. Police need cars ready to go, however.

The new Impalas will need about $6,000 in equipment and should be in service at the start of next year.

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