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Cleveland’s Hybrid Patrol

The typical police department consumes thousands of gallons of gasoline annually.

Much of it is used in patrol cars during stop-and-go driving. Ford, through its Hybrid Patrol tour, is attempting to help officers, as well civilians, drive more efficiently and save fuel. It is also using the program to introduce its newest hybrid electric vehicle, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. The Mercury joins the Ford Escape Hybrid that has been on the market for about a year.

Both Escape and Mariner SUVs, which use the same hybrid gasoline/electric systems, are the only full hybrids currently built by an American automobile manufacturer. Ford recently announced it plans to offer hybrid technology on half of its vehicle lineup—or some 250,000 hybrids annually—by 2010.

Ford, like its competitors offering hybrids, is trying to answer frequent consumer’s complaints that hybrid vehicles do not get the gas mileage as advertised on the EPA window stickers. For example, tests by Consumer Reports of the Toyota Prius fell short of EPA estimates of 60 mpg city and 51 mpg highway with actual mileage of 35 mpg city and 50 mpg highway.

Likewise, Honda Civic Hybrid had similar results—26 mpg city and 45 mpg highway compared to EPA numbers of 48 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. Note the greatest difference comes in city driving, and varies more with driving conditions.

The reason for the large difference: The EPA estimates assume that drivers are operating under certain ideal conditions, such as not using air conditioning and accelerating slowly. It is not what people actually do in real-world driving. Because of this, the EPA will propose changes to the methods used in calculating fuel economy ratings for vehicles so they will more accurately reflect how people actually drive.

For example, it will consider the impact of air conditioning, aggressive driving and traffic congestion on fuel economy. Incidentally, hybrids have turned out to be more sensitive to driving style compared to traditional vehicles. Ford, like other hybrid suppliers, is showing hybrid owners how to drive them most efficiently.

At each stop on the 10-city cross-country Hybrid Patrol tour, Ford engineers educate officers on how to improve their gasoline mileage in patrol cars with a fuel-economy clinic. These hints are not only applicable to hybrids, but any vehicle.

Then officers test their skills with a best-mileage competition where officers driving the Mariner Hybrid try to get the best mpg while covering a five-mile course. The winner in each city is entered in a drawing to win a new 2006 Mercury Mariner for their department.

Officers and the Ford staff then patrol the streets in the Mariner Hybrid complete with a light bar and bull horn. They surprise local drivers “caught in the act” of demonstrating good gas-saving practices with $25 checks provided by fuel supplier BP, a participant in the program.

Examples include drivers who avoid quick accelerations and decelerations, travel at posted speeds, carpool, drive a hybrid vehicle, or just display eco-friendly bumper stickers. Drivers are also given additional fuel-saving driving tips for efficient driving practices. Finally, Ford donates $2,500 to the department’s charity of choice.

The tips are not earth-shattering, just common sense. Accelerate slowly, leave the air conditioning off, do not brake as much and drive at a maximum speed of 60 mph on the highway. Other tips include using the recirculation mode on the A/C so hot, incoming air does not have to be cooled down. With regenerative braking used on hybrids, gradually slowing and stopping recoups more energy compared to quick stops.

I had a chance to meet the Ford Hybrid Patrol tour crew when they visited the Riverside County, CA Hazardous Materials Management Division. This is the “first” first responder agency to use hybrid vehicles as first-line emergency vehicles, not just administrative vehicles. Currently, Riverside County has 30 Ford Escape Hybrids of which 15 are assigned to HAZMAT Division. So far it has equipped four as full response vehicles with police light bars, sirens and mobile data terminals (MDT).

The replacement of the previous vehicles such as heavy-duty Ford pickup with the Escape Hybrids did require some downsizing of the amount of gear carried. Now, much of the HAZMAT cleanup equipment is carried on fire trucks that also go to HAZMAT incidents with personal gear still carried in the Escapes.

According to Paul Tavares, Deputy Director, Hazardous Material Management Division, Riverside County is the first Country in California, maybe the country, to have a dedicated “Environmental Crimes” unit. This means not only a team of criminal investigators, but also a DA who handles only environmental crimes and is a technical expert in this field. Thus, environmental crimes are much vigorously prosecuted when they don’t have to take a backseat to murders and rapes, and the DA does not have to be “educated” in the highly technical aspects involved with most environmental crimes.

William D. Siuru, Jr., PhD, PE is an automotive journalist specializing in technology. He may be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2006

Rating : 7.8

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