By Kyra Inglis
CAHOKIA, ILL. (UTC/AP)–After last year’s $4-a-gallon gas and fuel costs on the rise once again, many law enforcement agencies across the country are looking for ways to cut corners and reduce costs. Fuel efficient hybrids, such as the four cylinder Pontiac Vibe GT, has plenty of pep for policing, and gets twice the gas mileage as the big horsepower Ford Crown Victorias.
In Gulf Breeze, Florida, Police Chief Peter Paulding is pursuing a state grant to replace the internal combustion engines in three of the department’s 20 Crown Victorias with electric motors. It’s not so much an environmental stance as much as it is a test to see if the new greener engines can withstand the rigors of police work.
Tests like this are going on all across the country. Salt Lake City Police have recently added five 2009 Toyota Camry hybrids to their fleet, looking to save as much as $20,000 a year.
An Atlanta-based Carbon Motors Corp. has designed a prototype car just for police work. The E-7 includes flashers built into the car’s body for aerodynamics to twin-turbo diesel engine said to use 40 percent less fuel than the Crown Victorias.
Police Chief Richard Watson admits that his department’s newest patrol car is a different departure and that he is a guinea pig of sorts. When he told others at an FBI training program a year ago, he was met with raised eyebrows.
“They wanted to get all my statistics once we start running this car and see how it performs and all that,” he says. ”Nobody wants to jump out there and do it; they don’t want to take the effort, time and money,” says Watson.
The bigger question is not the speed and acceleration of the repowered vehicles, but how much of a range the vehicles have on a battery’s charge. Paulding says a police cruiser in his city rolls up to 60 to 100 miles on a typical patrol shift. He says it’s possible for an electric-powered car, through the vehicles might be less sensible for state troopers who log hundreds of miles a day.
Paulding says, “We don’t think we’re going to be able to get away from gas-powered cars totally, but we think we could convert at least some of our fleet, and we think that most police departments could convert at least some of their fleet to these electric vehicles.”