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Green Police Vehicles

"Make the admin vehicles as green as possible."



Green Police Vehicles

By: Ed Sanow


Green initiatives or green mandates are becoming more common. However, it is not at all clear what “green” means when it comes to police vehicles. Yes, it is politically correct to be “green.” Yes, these are typically top-down mandates from politicians seemingly without regard to initial vehicle costs or operating costs. Do green initiatives really mean go green at any cost?

As for definitions, does “green” simply mean use less gasoline? Or does it mean use no gasoline whatsoever? Is a mild hybrid (start-stop) green enough? Or does it have to be a full hybrid where both the gasoline engine and electric motor trade off powering the vehicle? Is an all-electric vehicle actually green, even though the vast majority of the nation’s electricity is produced by burning coal or nuclear, neither of which are green?

How about CNG or propane (LPG)? These are definitely clean and green, but have outrageous upfront costs. How about E85, which uses less gasoline but is more expensive than premium gas on a dollars per mile basis? OK, what about ULSD clean diesel and B20 biodiesel, which isn’t gasoline but certainly is a petroleum product?

Have a headache yet? The real problem is that law enforcement is often told “how” to do our job by people who have no idea whatsoever. The best management practice is almost always to explain the goal and let those in the know reach that goal. Tell us what you want accomplished, not how to accomplish it.

That said, for the purposes of covering a sampling of special service “green” vehicles, we are defining “green” as meaning 1) use less gasoline and 2) do not increase total cost of ownership.

The administrative and special service fleet makes up about 20 percent of the police fleet. Importantly, this admin fleet does not (generally) have the task-oriented requirements of the patrol fleet. It also shows the community that the police leadership is leading from the front. This opens us up to a wide variety of alternate fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles, all from the same companies that provide vehicles for our patrol fleet.


Gasoline: One Step Down

The most obvious and one of the most effective ways to go green is to use smaller V6 engines in the exact same vehicles used by the patrol fleet. So, the first and most honest step in the green direction is to down-size the engine. Whether or not the patrol fleet needs a V8 or turbocharged V6—and most do not—the admin fleet certainly does not.

A step that is even more effective is to use smaller vehicles, the so-called One Step Down method. From Charger to Avenger or Dart. From Caprice to Impala, and from Impala to Malibu or Cruze. From the Taurus-based Ford PI Sedan to the Fusion. From the V8-powered, Tahoe SUV to the V6-powered, Explorer-based Ford PI Utility crossover. From the ¾-ton pickup to the ½-ton pickup.

In the majority of these midsize sedans, the fuel economy from the smaller, 4-cylinder engines almost equals the fuel economy from the hybrid gas-electric version of the same car—without the upcharge for the hybrid drivetrain.

This One Step Down option is where the smart money is, where the lowest initial cost is, and where the lowest total cost is. Your department will use less gasoline from a readily available fuel with no infrastructure delays. You are green and you save money. Of course, some departments are forced to take more radical steps.


Hybrid Gas-Electric

We have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in both the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevy Malibu Eco. These are both excellent admin vehicles in their own right. They both meet the spirit of any green initiative. They both actually deliver on the hope of improved fuel mileage. Both have enough interior room for two plainclothes adults. Both have plenty of acceleration, braking and handling for any admin task. Both have a smallish but perfectly functional trunk.

The Fusion Hybrid is considered a full hybrid. That means the gasoline engine and the electric motor work together to power the vehicle. The Fusion Hybrid is powered by a 141 hp, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine assisted by a 118 hp electric motor bolted to a Constantly Variable Transmission. Sometimes it is battery-only powered and sometimes it is gasoline engine-only powered, but most of the time it is a little of both.

The whole reason we have hybrid drivetrains is so we can have V6 performance with a 4-cylinder engine, i.e., the electric motor kicks in during moderate to heavy acceleration. Without the demand for this kind of performance, the smallest 4-cylinder gasoline engine generally gets the best fuel economy.

The Fusion Hybrid hits 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. During our three weeks with the Fusion, we used it as an admin vehicle for 2,000 miles of urban, suburban, rural and interstate driving. It averaged 36. 3 mpg. Nothing but the highest praise for the Fusion Hybrid.

The Malibu Eco is considered a mild hybrid. The eAssist drivetrain is a Gen2 version of GM’s Belt Starter Alternator (BAS) advanced start-stop system. The engine shuts off many times when the gas pedal is let off and the brakes applied. However, the massive starter motor immediately restarts the engine as soon as the brakes are released and the gas pedal applied. The process is seamless.

The Malibu Eco is powered by a 182 hp, 2.4L eAssist I4 engine assisted by a 15 hp electric motor bolted to the 6-speed automatic trans. Technically, the electric motor assists the gas engine at all speeds but especially under the heaviest acceleration. Unlike the full hybrid, the electric motor does not power the car alone.

The Malibu Eco hits 60 mph in 8.9 seconds. During our two weeks with the Malibu, we used it as an admin vehicle for 1,100 miles of urban, suburban, rural and interstate driving. It averaged 30.9 mpg. The Malibu Eco is a hybrid without the hybrid hype. It under-promises and over-delivers.  



This will be hard for the fleet maintenance supervisor to believe, but the track record of hybrid gas-electric sedans in police use is actually better than the normal patrol fleet. Far from being a maintenance nightmare with orange high-voltage cables everywhere and a scary battery pack, the hybrids have a higher uptime than the gasoline-only sedans. And the brakes and rotors on the hybrids seem to last forever. As a fallback position for unscheduled repairs, the hybrid drivetrain is generally covered by an eight- to 10-year and 100K- to 150K-mile warranty.  

So, when going green, what might the ideal police sedan fleet look like? A marked patrol fleet of the Charger, Caprice, Impala or Ford PI Sedan and an unmarked admin fleet of the Fusion Hybrid or Malibu Eco. Put a check mark next to “green initiative” and move on to real police issues.


Electric Vehicles

Some community leaders only recognize battery-electric vehicles as being green. Ignore where electricity comes from and battery-only vehicles may be green. The initial cost is very expensive, the operating costs are very low, and the total cost of ownership is completely unknown since the residual value is so questionable. The battery-only driving range continues to be a challenge.  


The Chevy Volt is an excellent answer to the battery-only driving range problem. The Volt is powered by a 149 hp electric motor, which is powered by the on-board battery pack. The battery-only driving range is about 38 miles. When the battery is depleted, a 1.4L 4-cyliner gasoline engine automatically starts.

However, the gasoline engine is a backup only; it only serves to generate electricity for the battery. With only the most technical of exceptions, the gasoline engine does not drive the car—the electric motor does. The gasoline engine boosts the driving range to over 300 miles. The most honest description of the Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle.

The Volt is very responsive thanks to the electric motor that immediately generates maximum torque. The Volt hits 60 mph in 10 seconds. The Volt is small but reasonably comfortable for most small and medium stature, plainclothes officers.

More than any other vehicle on the road, the fuel economy you get from the Volt depends on the number of miles between battery charging, your informed use of Hold, Sport and Mountain modes, the exact driving terrain and the ambient temperature. During our two weeks with the Volt, we averaged 24 mpg, 34 mpg, 39 mpg, 44 mpg, 58 mpg, 98 mpg, 109 mpg and 250 mpg depending on a bunch of different factors. To be more helpful, we put 1,600 miles on the Volt and had a grand average of 43 mpg.

Dodge does not make a battery-only admin vehicle as a companion to the Charger Pursuit patrol vehicle, but Chrysler Group LLC certainly does—the FIAT 500e. The FIAT 500e is a zero-emissions, all-electric, battery powered car with a driving range of 87 miles, more than double the battery-only range of the Chevy Volt.

The FIAT 500e powertrain is 100-percent electric made up of three main components: 1) a 111 hp electric drive motor; 2) a large lithium-ion battery pack; and 3) a power inverter module (PIM) that controls the power flow out and the regenerative braking generated power back in. Like the Volt, the FIAT 500e can be powered by either 120-volt household current, or a 240-volt charging station, which is the real solution.

The FIAT 500 has been improved since its debut two years ago. It is simply more refined. During an extended drive, the FIAT 500e had brisk acceleration, reaching 60 mph in 9.2 seconds. The steering was tight, the handling nimble, and the ride good for such a tiny, tiny car. It gets maximum points for cute and adorable—so place it into community-oriented policing with that in mind.


Compressed Natural Gas

Anyone can bolt CNG tanks, hoses and valves to a sedan, SUV or truck and declare a bi-fuel, green victory. What is glossed over, or ignored, or never thought of in this reach for the green are concerns about impact safety and engine longevity. Aftermarket CNG / propane (LPG) tank installers are not required to pass NHTSA crash tests. The Original Equipment car companies certainly are.

For officer safety reasons, and we just went through a decade of crash concerns, ask crash compliance questions of any aftermarket tank installer. Ask the hard questions. Don’t fall for the razzmatazz. Then tell your community members pushing for CNG/LPG those answers. While you are asking the tank installers questions, ask if they are going to change the exhaust valves and valve seats on the engine. The factory CNG engines have unique CNG-tolerant engine components.

If you check the “meets NHTSA standards” and “has CNG engine components” boxes, you will probably find just one police-oriented vehicle standing—the RAM 2500 CNG CrewCab 4x4, the only factory-built, CNG-powered, bi-fuel pickup. The RAM 2500 CNG meets all of the “green” initiatives. Even better, the lower operating costs from the use of CNG actually pay for the CNG option well within a normal duty cycle or service life.

The RAM 2500 CNG is powered by a 5.7L HEMI V8. This bi-fuel pickup starts on gasoline and immediately defaults to CNG. It runs strictly on CNG until the 18-gallon equivalent CNG tanks are empty. Then the truck seamlessly switches over to gasoline. This bi-fuel truck has gasoline-like acceleration and a tow/haul capacity midway between a ½-ton and a ¾-ton pickup. (The 8-foot bed has 4.8-feet available, but the 3.2-foot CNG tank enclosure has the same load rating as the bed floor.)

The mileage on CNG is the same as on gasoline. In our 1,800 miles of driving the lightly loaded RAM 2500 CNG 4x4, we averaged 12.7 mpg on gasoline and 13.7 mpg (equivalent) on CNG. With full CNG tanks and a full 32 gallon gasoline tank, the total driving range is 700 miles. With CNG at $2.10 and gasoline at $3.45, running on CNG is like driving a ¾-ton truck on gasoline and getting 21 mpg.


Clean Diesel

The Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is the daring of the pro-diesel movement. The term “clean diesel” is not a marketing claim; instead, it is a widely acknowledged industry definition. It means the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel and full compliance with current on-highway standards for odor-free, soot-free emissions.

The Cruze is powered by a 151 hp, 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cylinder. With a diesel, horsepower is less significant than torque. When the turbo kicks in, the I4 produces 280 lb-ft of torque, which is more than the 3.6L V6 in the police Impala and Caprice. That explains why the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel hits 60 mph in just 8.6 seconds.

An even greener step is the fact that the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is certified by Chevrolet to run on B20 biodiesel. Biodiesel (B20) is a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent ULSD diesel. It is common for city buses to be powered by B20 biodiesel.

Biodiesel is a form of clean-burning, non-toxic diesel fuel made from renewable vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases. Biodiesel is safe, biodegradable, and produces less air pollutants than petroleum-based diesel. Since soybean oil is the dominant oil produced in the U.S., the development of biodiesel has focused around soy oil. One bushel of soybean produces about 1.5 gallons of biodiesel.

Heads-up…the Cruze is a compact sedan. It has plenty of head, hip and leg room for one plainclothes adult; in fact, it is quite comfortable but not so much for two adults.

In our two weeks and 1,500 miles with the Cruze Diesel, it averaged 40.7 mpg. That dips down to about 30 mpg in urban driving and reaches over 50 mpg in highway driving. The national average of ULSD diesel is $3.93 compared to regular gasoline at $3.49. That means the gas-equivalent average mileage is more like 36 mpg, which still meets the spirit of the green initiatives.

As a non-gasoline, Two Steps Down sedan, the police chief or sheriff driving a Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel will certainly be leading the green movement from the front.


Cross-section of Green Vehicles



Fuel Economy                       

Subjective Comments


Ford Fusion Hybrid   

36.3 mpg        

full hybrid, very green, a must for every admin fleet


Chevy Malibu Eco     

30.9 mpg 


start-stop (mild) hybrid, low hype, green, inexpensive, roomy


Chevy Volt                

43.0 mpg        

extended range electric vehicle, expensive initial cost, compact car


FIAT 500e                 

108 mpge       

battery-only electric vehicle, 87-mile range, think community policing


RAM 2500 CNG       

13.7 mpge (CNG)      

only OE-upfitted, crash-tested, bi-fuel pickup, highly recommended


Chevy Cruze Diesel   

40.9 mpg (ULSD)      

certified for B20 biodiesel, very upscale compact car

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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