Police to Use Hybrids as Pursuit Vehicles
New York and Los Angeles cops may be among the first to use a hybrid electric car that is specifically designed for police pursuits. The Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan (pic) aims to meet the twin needs of police vehicles: an occasional high-speed pursuit mixed in with a whole load of waiting around.
A hybrid car uses both an ordinary gas engine and an electric motor. The balance of the two varies between models but one common set-up is to use the electricity when the car is starting up or driving at low speeds, where the electricity is the more efficient option. Another common feature is to harness some of the energy created by braking while driving with the gas engine and use this energy to recharge the electric battery a little more, thus extending the time before recharging is needed.
Stop-Start Pattern Suited To Hybrids
Ford believes that a hybrid is particularly suited to police driving in cities where there's a lot of low speed driving - for example when the main aim is being visible to provide reassurance to the public - and plenty of braking at red lights. It's also a good fit for when police cars need to be idling in situations where the officers need to be stationary to receive or await instructions or when looking for a suspect, but also need the ability to start and accelerate with minimal delay for a pursuit or to attend an emergency incident.
The company estimates that based on typical use for a police car, each vehicle will save almost $4,000 a year in fuel costs, a combination of less time using gas and better efficiency when using the engine. (Source: ford.com)
Model Includes Specific Pursuit Customization
Generally, electric and hybrid vehicles aren't associated with high-performance and speed, but Ford says it has worked to adapt the car to meet the specific pursuit needs of police.
This includes improving the suspension and brakes, using wheels and tires suited to the task and adding a skid plate that minimizes damage to the underside of the car if it hits the ground or curb. The car also has some interior alterations, such as recesses in the seats to accommodate police utility belts and even special plates in the front seats to block stabbing attempts by suspects in custody who have managed to hide a weapon.
According to Ford, both the LA Sheriff Department and Michigan state police have tested the model and rated it suitable for pursuits. Ford also says that its acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is similar to that of existing specialist police vehicles. (Source: latimes.com)
What's Your Opinion?
Does a hybrid vehicle being used for police pursuits change the way you think about such cars? Do you think the average driver uses their car enough for the fuel savings on a hybrid to outweigh the additional costs? How much performance and convenience would you be prepared to sacrifice to get the financial and environmental benefits of a hybrid or even all-electric vehicle?
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