"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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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 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
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.
Vehicle 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
(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