Ariz. Police Departments Buying Hybrid Vehicles

Flagstaff officials hope to save money on fuel while helping the environment.

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Some Arizona police departments are starting to buy hybrid patrol vehicles, with a Flagstaff official saying the recent purchase of five all-wheel-drive hybrids puts the city on a course to save money on fuel while helping the environment.

The Chandler and Show Low police departments are among others that have hybrid patrol vehicles on order, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.

Flagstaff expects to have its five new Ford Police Interceptor Utility hybrid patrol vehicles on the road within two months once they're fitted with back-seat cages and other police gear.

Some police agencies have been reluctant to start using the vehicles, but they have passed performance testing in both California and Michigan, which has rigorous standards, said Jen Brown, Flagstaff's support services manager.

“It’s one of the fastest police cars out there, but we’re not concerned about going fast. We’re concerned about reliability,” Brown said.

The hybrids cost $39,000, up from the $30,000 price tag of conventional models. But Flagstaff anticipates saving $2,300 at the pump per vehicle annually, she said.

Flagstaff has a 45-vehicle fleet and plans to buy five hybrids annually.

“Once we get that (savings) for all the vehicles, that will be a big savings,” Brown said.

Brad Provost, the Show Low Police Department's commander of operations support, said that department has ordered two hybrids but hasn't received them yet.

Provost said the volunteer officers who deliver documents between courts and city offices and who conduct neighborhood patrols and home watches will be the first to use them

The new vehicles also will be available for regular patrol work during an emergency, he said.

“I’ll be curious to see how they work,” Provost said. “They have a good warranty on the battery systems and all that. How they’re going to hold up over the long run is what we’re interested in.”

Brown said Flagstaff waited until Ford's vehicles met all of the needs of the city and its officers before deciding to begin phasing out gas-only vehicles.

The criteria included interior space sufficient for taller officers and all-wheel-drive capability so the hybrid vehicles could travel on snowy streets.

"Our priority and our mission is to save lives,” Brown said.

Interior space matters because the vehicles are an officer's work space for a 10-hour shift, she said. “We need to make sure that they are safe, comfortable, that the public knows who they are, and that they can be seen at all times.”

One problem with gas-only vehicles is that their engines need to be running to power onboard computers used for tasks such as processing tickets and completing reports.

“One of my biggest pet peeves is when officers are having their vehicles on idle. It’s not sustainable,” Brown said.

The hybrids will solve that problem by running the car and equipment through its lithium battery, as opposed to its engine, when the car is idling. If the battery runs out of charge, the engine kicks back on to reinvigorate it, Brown said.

“Obviously we want to save on fuel, but we also want to help with the environment,” Brown said.

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