Hybrid 5-0h! Police Cruisers Go Green

Hoboken, New Jersey’s police department is also looking to go greener, but has run into a roadblock. “They don’t make a hybrid car with a police package,” said Bill Bergin, Hoboken’s Public Safety Director, in Hoboken Now magazine. The highly urban setting of Hoboken requires its police cars to be equipped with a police package, which includes a stiffer suspension for high-speed maneuvers, and a larger battery to power more sophisticated equipment. Other large metropolitan areas may run in to the same dilemma.

The Aspen Police Department has been testing a Highlander Hybrid patrol car, as it considers a wholesale shift from of seven Volvo cruisers to hybrids. And Fargo, North Dakota has started making the hybrid switch, beginning at the top. Police Chief Keith Ternes now drives a city-owned Toyota Camry Hybrid. The change is also occurring with college campus police departments, which don’t need vehicles with the police package. Northern Illinois University is one of several schools patrolled by Toyota Priuses instead of Ford Crown Victorias.

Some police departments are even thinking beyond pavement for the use of hybrids. Baltimore, Maryland’s Marine and Harbor Patrol Unit is considering patrol boats with gas-electric hybrid powertrains. “Our boats burn through more fuel during a single patrol shift than a standard police cruiser,” said veteran marine officer Vincent Biondo, in an interview with Hybridcars.com. “A hybrid boat could cut consumption in half.”


  • Skeptic

    Yeah, definitely need a hybrid with Cop Shocks, Cop Tires, Cop Motor.

    If the seats in the Ford SUV trio are still like the ones in the 2005 Excape hybrid I test drove (in May 2006 – still on lot, unsold) then they will need to get real seats as well. I can’t imagine sitting in that seat for more than an hour let alone a whole shift.

  • Paul Rivers

    Since there’s no source for this information, I’m going to go ahead and take a guess – The Onion, maybe? I was suspicious when they said “HPD Chief Boisse Correa said he is not worried about the hybrids speed because the department thinks high-speed chases are too dangerous, anyway.”

    But I was totally convinced when they said:
    “Our boats burn through more fuel during a single patrol shift than a standard police cruiser,” said veteran marine officer Vincent Biondo, in an interview with Hybridcars.com. “A hybrid boat could cut consumption in half.”

    Have you heard of a lot of “hybrid boats”?

    Police departments might benefit a lot from a “light”, “performance hybrid”. The police are one of the very few categories of drivers that actually need really fast cars – both to get to the scene of an incident quickly, and so they can keep up with crooks in a chase. “Gee, we would have caught the bank robber, but he had a really fast car” just isn’t going to cut it.

    But the one thing that cop cars do that regular cars don’t is that they spend a *TON* of time idling. I’ve heard people who worked for the city say that a car with 100,000 miles on it has actually spent half it’s time running but idling (and not cranking up the mileage). The police could probably save a ton of gas with a light hybrid that could turn off the engine when the car isn’t moving, but start it up again as soon as you hit the gas.

  • gok

    On an island there is little need for high speed chases. Mainland cops won’t adopt fuel sipping hybrid (prius, escape). They might go with a Tahoe. Since with the number of miles they drive any savings is worth it.

  • Shines

    Skeptic I don’t believe you.

  • Dom

    While I can see the benefit of a hybrid cop car while they sit idling (engine stop), I don’t think a hybrid is a very good candidate otherwise. We all know hybrid drivers have to baby a hybrid to get good economy, which doesn’t seem to match with cops driving styles. “Well sir, I arrived late to the crime scene because I was trying to maximize fuel economy with pulse-n-glide, light acceleration, and making sure I didn’t exceed 55-mph…”.
    I agree with the guy who said a performance or mild-hybrid might be a better option. I see tons of Chevy Malibu Cop cars… just order the hybrid version.
    A diesel car might do as well… doesn’t use hardly any fuel while idling. It’s also a very good cruising engine… and driving fast doesn’t kill fuel economy nearly as quickly…

  • steved28

    There are many applications in law enforcement that do not require a high performance auto. Traffic details, detective work, transports etc.
    The Chevy Mailbu, in any flavor, is not really a great choice for the average patrol car. Most departments have a criteria for cruisers, real wheel drive, and quick 0-60 times, top end is not that important, most people pull over when the lights come on. You just have to catch up to them from a stopped position. A police package in a hybrid would ideally have the radio/lights/computer run off the high voltage battery. That way when the battery is getting depleted the engine would start on it’s own.

    Steve (ex cop)

  • Andy

    Other advantages:

    I’ll bet cops on beat would just love a car that can prowl around and sneak up on situations on electric drive with ZERO engine noise.

    And same in being able to wait ready for extended periods without needing the time or attention drawing of restarting the engine when suddenly needed.

    And like most applications, they probably also need the high end horsepower only for the rare burst of acceleration and not for extended load pulling or hill climbing. So again, an appropriate application for electric assist to a smaller, lighter, more efficient engine.

  • Anonymous

    A prius with a bigger engine, probably a small 2.5 or 3.5 turbocharged V8 or V6. A prius would be a good candidate because it’s very aerodynamic. Andy made a good point that the electric motor would be good in sneaking up on the bad guys. Cylinder deactivation when full cylinders aren’t needed would help, but if you needed extra cyliders they would be there. These would help efficiency and still provide a lot of power. Or we could what Italy does and call in Lamborghini cop cars for the high-speed chase.

  • Giant

    Well, since cop cars do a lot of idling, they will need a bigger battery than what’s in a TCH. Especially if they have the AC on, that battery will need to be a much bigger depletion type battery.

  • Andy

    Giant, remember that these are drive train batteries we’re talking about. They can move the entire car at ~25 mph. Turning the compressor looks fairly small compared to that so you might be surprised how long they could run it without the generator having to kick on.

    Tesla Motors has remarked that if you left their Roadster (a full electric) in a parking lot with its lights on, it would take around a month before the lights died.

    It’s a different paradigm and the old assumptions and limitations don’t necessarily apply.

  • Need2Change

    A Tesla has no normal battery. A Tesla can go at Corvette speeds for over 100 miles on battery only. The Volt is shooting for 40 miles in economy mode. A Prius can’t go over 5 miles using only the battery.

    Police cars not only have headlights, but have 10-20 flashing lights, a full computer with monitor, wireless connection to the network, police radio, and siren.

    Hybrid boats are mainly used for fishing. People add an electric troller motor to boats to slowly navigate while fishing. When it’s time to leave, they fire up the ole internal combusion engine.

    Non-nuclear submarines are hybrids: diesel when on surface, and electric when submerged.

  • matty333

    aassss iffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff check oult the peugot 308 deisel electric hybrid….. alot better then gas electric. have a look its simple y would anyone go back to petril electric or gas electric

  • Max Reid

    Its a good idea.
    These police vehicles travel atleast 30,000 miles with most of them in and around cities and with gas at $3.6/gallon they can easily get the return on investment.

    Taxis can also use Hybrids. NYC already has plans to phase out non-hybrids with Hybrids by 2012.

  • Harold Davis

    I have been driving my 2007 Escape hybrid for a little over a year, for 18,ooo miles and find it to be extremely comfortabe and economical.
    i use it for a survey vehicle, and can carry all of the equipment i need.

  • Jeff

    What everyone fails to realize is that none of those hybrids are rated for patrol use. Meaning, they are not designed to handle the rigors of patrol, high speed driving, pursuits, etc. They just wouldn’t stand up to the wear and tear.

  • Stephanie Dasaro, Community Relations, Aspen Police

    Press Release
    For Immediate Release

    Aspen Police Department
    970-920-5400
    http://www.aspenpolice.com

    ASPEN, CO – May 29, 2008 – The Aspen Police Department has never been traditional, whether it has been in how we interact with our community, or the tools we use. Through times when most of the country was driving Ford Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Caprice police vehicles, we were driving Saabs and Volvos.

    We continue to break with tradition, and are now taking a more radical step in implementing a completely hybrid police vehicle fleet, among the first police agencies in the nation to do so.

    “The reasons we are buying these are the same reasons many consumers can agree with,” Police Chief Richard Pryor said Thursday. “We wanted to do our part to reduce CO2 emissions, to reduce the fuel we use, as well as provide a fully-functioning police patrol vehicle.”

    These three goals have been met by the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

    A mid-size four-wheel-drive SUV, the Highlander hybrid is classified as a “Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle,” yet generates a potent 268 horsepower.

    Before 2005 the Aspen Police Department began looking into using hybrid vehicles for use as a police patrol car. At that time, hybrid vehicles were making inroads in the consumer market, but they were untested in police patrol use. No vehicle produced at that time was judged acceptable for police patrol use.

    But in 2006, Toyota introduced the Highlander hybrid, which seemed like a potential platform for a police patrol vehicle, and the Aspen Police Department began exploring the idea.

    In March 2008 the police department purchased a Toyota Highlander Hybrid vehicle, and as an experiment, installed a full electrical police package of radio, emergency lights, radar, video & laptop computer. Two months of successful “on the street” police patrol testing has followed, as well as some specific laboratory-style tests, to determine that the Highlander will be a solid police vehicle platform.

    Through this, the police department has discovered that lower carbon emissions and a decrease in fuel consumption are achievable targets. We estimate that by increasing fuel efficiency by a conservative 55%, or from 12.9 mpg to 20mpg, the Aspen Police Department can decrease CO2 emissions by approximately 20 tons per year and save $7,000 in fuel costs, at current prices.

    Chief Pryor offered his thanks to the City of Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, City Council, and other City staff for supporting us in this venture, showing their commitment to caring for our environment.

    He also wished to thank electrical engineer Mike Ogburn and the Rocky Mountain Institute for dedicating time to testing the vehicle and offering solutions to improve the electrical equipment installation.

    Lastly, thanks to Big Horn Toyota of Glenwood Springs for supplying the vehicles.

    Please visit out Police Hybrid webpage (http://www.aspenpitkin.com/depts/53/hybrid.cfm) for more details or contact us directly 970-920-5400.

  • roaddog

    Been driving a 2009 tahoe hybrid for about 7000 police miles. In city highway mixed driving I get 36 miles to the gallon! When you need to get up and go it kicks in the big V8 and it really moves. Also drops to 4 cylinders on the highway, gets about 20 mpg. You can run the AC on batteries for quite a while without the engine kicking on. We’ll see how she does on maintenance, I suspect the upkeep on the hybrids with the rigors of police use will kill the idea for most PD.s. It does low speeds on the battery and is nice for night patrol in the warehouse district, you can hear whats going on and they can’t hear you coming.

    I recommend this over the escape any day.

  • Brad

    The guys of the Cook County IL Sheriff’s Child Support Warrant Unit drive ford escape hybrids and they hate them. Not nearly enough power or corner handling when flying with the lights on to back people up. Another thing to mention is that unless you drive them like a granny the don’t save too much on gas.

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