Black-and-Whites Are Going Green; Ford Set to Unveil First Hybrid Police Cruiser That's Also 'Pursuit Rated'

USA TODAY

April 11, 2017

All police cars are designed to fight crime. Ford is introducing one that also fights air pollution.

The new cruiser that Ford was expected to show here Monday ahead of the New York Auto Show comes billed as the first hybrid police car that's "pursuit rated," meaning it's capable of safely chasing the bad guys at high speeds.

The Fusion Hybrid midsize sedan will be named the Ford Police Responder when modified and sold to law-enforcement agencies. The new squad car will have a combined city and highway gas mileage rating of 38 miles per gallon, more than double the rating of the most popular police car, the larger Ford Police Interceptor, a modified Taurus full-size sedan with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine. Better gas mileage translates into lower emissions.

For the most part, Ford officials say they see the Responder as the perfect car for departments in urban environments, in cities where global warming and air pollution are big issues and for agencies wanting to stretch their crime-fighting budgets by spending less on gas. The new car can save about $3,877 a year on gas compared to the Interceptor sedan, based on $2.50 a gallon, Ford says.

"We've had a lot of support from our police advisory board that has been calling for a pursuit-rated hybrid for some time," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, said in an interview. With Fords now making up some two-thirds of the police cars in the nation, he says, "they trust us."

Better fuel economy and lower emissions would be impressive in any car, but in police cars, it is particularly significant because they are run harder than just about any vehicle on the road. The engine of a police cruiser is seldom ever shut off over an entire shift. They are run continuously even when officers are out of the car to conduct an investigation or directing traffic because of the power demands from the car's emergency lights, radio, computers and electronics. Also, officers want the car to be ready to go as soon as they put it in gear and step on the accelerator.

Endless hours of idling is not only tough on engines but burns loads of fuel. Because the Responder is a hybrid, it can use its lithium-ion battery for much of that power. It is capable of running on electric power alone at speeds up to 60 mph.

But it may not work for some departments. As a midsize sedan, it's smaller than the full-size Taurus or the Explorer SUV that Ford has been offering as its Police Interceptors. Vehicle size is a big issue for police departments since a car has to be able to hold two officers and have enough space for a partition between the front and back seat, where arrestees sit when they are transported to jail. Plus, officers need space to carry more equipment these days in order to be able to handle any kind of emergency. Larger vehicles generally afford better crash protection.

One department that's interested is Los Angeles, where the Responder would cut emissions in a city famous for its air-quality woes.

"Patrol vehicles are a police officer's office, and we expect them to not only be economically and environmentally efficient but also an effective tool for fighting crime in major metropolitan areas," Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement relayed by Ford.

The notion of less pollution from police cars wins endorsement from the agency that lords over Southern California's air quality. "We applaud Ford's efforts in developing hybrid-electric vehicles for police departments," Michael Cacciotti, a governing board member for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said in a statement, also via Ford.

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