GM held their Law Enforcement Product Council (police advisory board) in the 100 degree heat of Tucson. The LEPC met in conjunction with the GM Fleet & Commercial Operations Fleet Preview. The Fleet Preview is a big deal — one out of every three Chevrolet cars and trucks sold went through fleet and commercial operations. As of May 2012, GM had its ninth straight profitable quarter.
The LEPC members got a chance to check out the new police vehicles, and to be a part of a two-way exchange information. The LEPC listened to GM Fleet (sales, service, engineers and management) and then GM Fleet listened to their advisory board (sworn and civilian fleet managers, shop superintendents, chiefs, sheriffs, EVOC instructors).
In the Fleet Preview presentations, private sector topics of total lifecycle costing, total cost of ownership were discussed. A critical part of the lifecycle cost is the residual value — what the vehicle brings at auction after three years of use. GM pointed out their Chevy Malibu has a higher residual than a comparable Ford Fusion; their Chevy Silverado 2500 retained more of its initial value than a comparable Ford Super Duty; Chevy Equinox had a higher residual than a comparable Ford Escape.
New for 2013
New for the 2013 Caprice PPV are police-specific rear door panels. But what is really new for 2013, however, is the wide availability of the Caprice with a 301 hp, 3.6L V6. During LASD testing, the Caprice 3.6L V6 got almost 4 mpg better mileage than the Caprice 6.0L V8.
The Caprice V6 has quicker acceleration than the Ford CVPI, a higher top speed, faster road racing lap times, and better fuel economy. And the Caprice is as big as or bigger everywhere than the CVPI.
The 250 hp V8 Ford CVPI has been the benchmark of size, performance, price and fuel economy for the past 15 years. With an average market share of 80 percent, the CVPI defines what is expected of a police vehicle. The 301 hp V6 Caprice PPV bests the Ford CVPI in nearly every category. The V6 Caprice is the most direct, feature-by-feature replacement for the V8 Ford CVPI.
Cooling Solutions for Impala
The 2013 Impala 9C1 and 9C3 are straight carryovers from the 2012 model. The 2012 Impalas received a new 302 hp, 3.6L V6 and a new 6-speed trans. That is over 70 hp more and two more trans gears. Also new for 2012 was police-tuned electronic stability control. The 2013 model year is the last for the 9C1 and 9C3 police package Impalas.
On the topic of the heat of Tucson, GM Fleet gave an update on Impala 9C1 cooling issues. First, the cooling fan problem. Electric relays that control the fan motors were originally mounted under hood in a black box — without ventilation. Under hot ambient conditions during periods of extended idling, the fan relays would overheat and fail. This shut off power to the electric radiator fans. GM fixed this two ways. First, the relay was upgraded to a heavier duty circuit. Second, the relays were moved to the cowl, away from the under hood area, where it is both cooler and ventilated.
The second cooling issue is the HVAC that overheats at idle under hot ambient conditions, overloads and shuts off. The fix was to get more air into the condenser coils, which keeps the whole system cooler. Again, two solutions: One is a higher watt electric fan that forces air across the condenser. It was bumped up from 225 watts to 300 watts. The other is a baffle redesign. The baffle that moves air into the condenser was revised, including the elimination of any air gaps. With the new baffle, all the forced air does indeed cross the HVAC cooling condenser.
Tahoe Payload and Battery Upgrades
The 2013 Tahoe has been upgraded in its load carrying capacity. It can now haul a 1,500-pound payload. The payload is defined as the total of ALL upfit gear (lightbar, push bumper, prisoner partition, trunk tray); all passengers (assumed to be five at 150 pounds each); a full tank of gas; and the cargo you want to haul. The GVWR has been increased from 6,700 pounds to 6,800 pounds to handle a 1,500-pound payload.
However, GM Fleet is emphatic that the total payload by properly distributed. Specifically, 170 pounds may be added to the weight on the front axle. That is the push bumper and all of the police upfit gear. A total of 580 pounds may be added to the weight on the rear axle. That is the cargo behind the rear axle, including the trunk box. The rest of the 750 pounds is reserved for people, but importantly, it is weight added in front of the rear axle.
Also new on the 2013 Tahoe is a common sense battery upgrade. And it is an upgrade. The 730 CCA, 70 amp-hour battery has been replaced by a 660 CCA, 80 amp-hour battery. Here is the logic. Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) is the amount of electrical energy to start the vehicle at 0 deg F. With fuel injection and modern engine controllers, most engines start in less than three cranks. A 660 CCA battery is plenty.
The amp-hour rating is the capability of the battery to withstand a steady draw for an extended period of time. It is amp-hours, and not CCA, that defines the police use of a battery. For 2013, the amp-hour rating has been increased by almost 15 percent.
When the dual battery option is selected on the Tahoe, both batteries will be the new 660 CCA, 80 amp-hour battery. There is no change in the wiring for the dual batteries. They are parallel-connected and not separated by an isolator.
Chevy has the maximum confidence in the Tahoe as the police vehicle for both today and the ideal police vehicle in the many years to come. You say that you want a large, body-on-frame, V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive police vehicle? One that has lots of room in front for officers and emergency communication equipment? Room in the back seat for prisoner partitions and prisoners? Room in the back for the wide range of police gear? It is the Tahoe PPV.
Each of the Police Fleet Expos has an open-forum dialogue session with fleet managers from roughly the same size departments, i.e., under 50 vehicles, 50 to 150 vehicles and over 150 vehicles. Service issues are discussed; problems are shared; ideas are exchanged. During the packed, Large Agency session at PFE – Southwest, a show of hands indicated many departments are running the Tahoe PPV. So, what are some of the service issues you are having with the Tahoe? No one hand was raised. There were exactly zero complaints, even among some outspoken fleet managers. Zero.
GM Fleet conducted a survey among LEPC members to find out what is important in any police car. Some of the results are predictable, some are surprising, and some are frustrating. The predictable ones? Price matters, of course. However, it is not everything. For example, a strong local dealer is a major factor. And, the drivetrain needs to be right, i.e., a preference for RWD over FWD, but all else equal, the price is very important.
As no surprise at all, fuel economy is critical. However, the ways to improve fuel economy are a bit frustrating. As a rule, law enforcement is not at all interested in CNG, all-electric or diesel as alternate fuels. There is some interest — but only limited — in hybrids. Start-stop idle technology and 6- to 8-speed transmissions will only produce small improvements. The fuel economy gains by the use of smaller engines must be balanced by the need for acceptable acceleration.
Some surprises. First, interior room (front seat, rear seat), which was less of an issue in the past, is now critical. The trunk volume was only so-so important. Police fleet managers have had a couple of year’s notice that the Ford CVPI was going away. Most have already made the decision on cargo space. If you don’t have much to carry, most any of the trunks in the new sedans will do. If you have a lot to carry, go for a crossover or an SUV.
As a bit of a surprise, acceleration is important but not critical. However, the other surprise was braking. Only three areas got “critical” ratings: fuel economy, interior space and braking. This is just another reminder to replace brake pads with OE pads or verified OE-equivalent pads.
Fuel Economy Strategy
GM’s long-term fuel economy strategy is straightforward. First, make improvements in the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Previous improvements have been variable valve timing, direct injection, and 6-speed transmissions. Just about the only option left is to make engines smaller, with or without turbocharging.
What about cylinder deactivation at idle? At this point, no police engine from Chevy, Dodge or Ford shuts off cylinders at idle. Some V6 and many V8 engines use cylinder deactivation, i.e., Active Fuel Management for GM; Multiple Displacement System for Chrysler. With the typical police driving style, cylinder deactivation isn’t used much anyhow. And, it is programmed to never be used at idle. Why?
Three reasons. First, a V6 doesn’t have enough torque in V3 mode to overcome friction and other pumping losses at idle. To keep it running, the idle speed needs to be increased just to keep the engine running. Increasing the idle rpm cancels the fuel savings from shutting off cylinders.
Second, the V8 has enough torque to idle in V4 mode, but the idle is rough. It is so uneven that most drivers will notice it and think something is wrong. Trying to educate the officer that a rough running engine is OK completely disagrees with most fleet maintenance strategies!
Third, a technical hurdle. Cylinders are activated or deactivated by oil pressure changes in special hydraulic lifters. At idle, the oil pressure is too low to properly operate the pressure-controlled lifters. While cruising at 2,000 rpm, the oil pressure is 55 psi. However, idling at 700 rpm, the pressure is just 30 psi.
Cylinder deactivation at idle? Probably not going to happen. Other technologies like stop-start are much easier solutions to reducing gas use at idle...including an automatic restart when the electrical or HVAC load demands it.
E85 and CNG
The second GM strategy is the use of bio-fuel: E85 ethanol and bio-diesel. This is both a political and infrastructure issue, and little headway has been made in the past few years. The third strategy is an emphasis on dedicated CNG and LPG. This is an area where GM is actively involved. Whether bi-fuel or dedicated, this is currently GM’s strongest focus. Gasoline is on its way out, eventually. All-electric, CNG and hydrogen are the future, perhaps distant future, but still inevitable. CNG is GM’s primary, near-term focus.
GM just announced new CNG/LPG trucks and vans. The CNG bi-fuel Silverado / Sierra ¾-ton extended cab pickup is powered by a 6.0L V8. It is available in 2WD and 4x4, and as a short bed and long bed. With the same performance and payload capacity as their CNG competition, the new GM bi-fuel CNG truck has a longer gasoline-CNG combined range.
In January 2012, GM began production of the 2013 Chevy Malibu ECO. This mild hybrid uses eAssist technology. Powered by a 2.4L I4, the Malibu ECO is the next step up in stop-start technology. This Gen2 Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) system uses a three times more powerful electric motor, and a battery upgraded from nickel metal hydride to lithium ion. Compared to the 2 mpg boost over the non-hybrid from the original BAS system, eAssist provides a 6 mpg edge over the non-hybrid version. This is a promising new admin sedan. Watch for a review with driving impressions of the Malibu Eco in an upcoming issue of Police Fleet Manager.
The fourth strategy is hybrid technology, i.e., gasoline plus electric. This can be a mild hybrid like eAssist, which is being rolled out on many new vehicles including the Malibu Eco. This eAssist is the Gen 2 version of GM’s Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) system. This can also be full hybrid, where the vehicle is propelled under some situations by an electric motor.
Fifth, all-electric vehicles. These include battery-only electric vehicles like the new Chevy Spark, and extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt. Sixth, hydrogen fuel cells...the final frontier. The LEPC drove a fuel cell Equinox a few years ago. It felt like any other electric vehicle. It was completely ordinary and uneventful and very quiet.
Future Vehicle Technology
GM will not release any details on future products. However, they are very proud of their research into future technology. And the future technology that matters the most to future police vehicles is how to effectively handle information — of all kinds — coming into the police officer driving the car. To the point, how to help the officer cope with incoming information while under the stress of an emergency run or pursuit without being overloaded. And how to handle routine information flow while on patrol without being distracted.
GM Research and Development staffers defined the problem, explained the investigative steps to solve the problem, and offered both near-term and long-term solutions. The problem: avoid distracted driving accidents; all sub-tasks must be completed with the driver’s eyes off the road a maximum of two seconds. (Expect that mandate to drop to 1.5 seconds in the near-future.) That two-second maximum pretty much explains all of the front-end cruiser collisions into the back of other cars — the classic distracted driver collision.
The solution is to better format the CAD text information coming into the police vehicle — simplify and prioritize it, and make it more intuitive so it can be quicker to comprehend. Second, it is the vision that is so easily over-taxed. Convert some of the information from texts to audio once it is received in the car. Perhaps use both methods, a redundancy of both visual (text, symbols, icons) and audible. Many of us will still be on the job when officer safety, information managing, distraction tolerant technology is incorporated into police vehicles.
Keynote from Coach K
The keynote speaker for the Fleet Preview was Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K compared the link between any automaker and its fleet customers to the ties between members of a team. You must be able to communicate to one another; to trust one another; to share a collective responsibility; to see that you will either win together or lose together; and to work as each having the other’s back. Even if you get knocked down, as GM did, be resilient enough to get back in the game, as GM did.
Coach K also emphasized it is one thing to see and hear something. It is a whole other thing to feel something, get an experience-based link to something. That was the perfect lead-in to a massive street drive. Virtually every make and model of GM vehicle was fueled and ready for an extended drive on rural roads, interstate highways and city streets — from Corvette and Camaro to Tahoe Hybrid and Sierra Denali to Buick Verano and Regal GS.
Attendees were encouraged to drive at least one in each of six different categories. My list? Chevy Caprice PPV V6; Cadillac CTS-V coupe; Cadillac SRX crossover; Chevy Volt; Chevy Camaro SS convertible; Chevy Sonic; Chevy Silverado 1500 and Chevy Malibu ECO. Quite a lineup!
General Motors Extends Impala
In early December, General Motors made a major announcement about its police lineup. Dana Hammer, Manager, Law Enforcement Vehicles for GM Fleet & Commercial Sales announced an extension of the current Chevrolet Impala 9C1/9C3. Chevrolet will continue to make the current Impala for the 2014 model year. This will be exclusively for fleets and that specifically includes the police package (9C1) and undercover package (9C3) for law enforcement customers. For the 2014 model year, the current Impala will be sold under the nameplate Impala Limited. (For a full, long-term driving impression of the Impala 9C1 with the new engine and trans, go to www.hendonpub.com, Resources, Article Archives.)