I saw my first hybrid model design police car about five years ago at a convention. It was a two seat vehicle that had actually been an electric vehicle outfitted with a fossil fuel conversion. In 1994 discussion picked up. Going through some old files I had saved I found this link from a publication called Police Fleet Manager.
This Lexus, featured as a police vehicle in England is one of the first full size sedans to make the hybrid transition. Europe generally seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to innovative police vehicles. Space is a concern given the amount of storage required for all the electronic gear necessary in a typical U.S. police squad. My European counterparts have always been envious of our larger U.S. made police sedans, unfortunately, they usually always shocked at the type of fuel consumption SUV’s and “traditional” squads experience.
The current-hungry computers, video equipment and mobile data terminals in US police vehicles are a challenge for hybrid vehicles’ charging capacity that seems to be well on the way toward resolution overseas.
One big jump forward in technology has been the development of LED (light emitting diodes) a lighting system that uses very little electricity but produces very bright light. You probably have noticed the transition to LED lighting on our Northfield squads the past couple years. Advances in this type of technology will continue to make a hybrid vehicle more viable for police service.
I’ve been tracking the progress each year as the technology gets better and more affordable. There are actually some advantages to police service hybrids other than emission reduction and fuel cost savings. The stealth approach of an electric motor allows for a better approach to alarms and covert operations. The vehicle can also be programmed to go into a “sleep” mode when the vehicle is idle, such as when the vehicle is occupied but sitting, working traffic or observing activities. This is an important benefit given that a good part of the time a police cruiser is on the street, it is actually stationary.
The improvements in size and the design based on the demands of police service are moving close to a feasible plan for future police service use on a regular basis. A number of larger cities are testing hybrids now. The information gleaned from these tests hopefully will make them practical and affordable for smaller communities like Northfield in the not-so-distant future.
We’ll keep monitoring the progress and practicality for applications in Northfield.