BRATTLEBORO — With an eye to energy efficiency and cost saving, the police department is getting its first hybrid vehicle.
At a meeting held remotely last week, the Select Board approved spending $33,163 for a hybrid 2021 Ford Explorer Interceptor and $31,615 for a gas-only version of the same vehicle for detectives for criminal investigations. Capt. Mark Carignan said the hybrid police vehicles produced by Ford don’t have “any sort of electric drive function.”
“The hybrid function is just a large battery that’s in the vehicle that powers all of the equipment when the vehicle is at idle,” he said. “As you can imagine, our vehicles idle a significant amount at car crash scenes, during car stops, any number of other incidents that we go to.”
Carignan said officers will be able to turn the vehicle off and the battery will power heat, air conditioning, lights, sirens and computers without burning fuel. He didn’t recommend a hybrid vehicle for detective use because he said there wouldn’t be much of an environmental or financial benefit.
“Generally speaking, the detectives get in the car, they drive it to the scene, they investigate that scene,” he said. “They may be driving around town, meeting with witnesses, suspects and survivors and conducting interviews.”
The hybrid vehicle will be the department’s first. It will look no different than the other cruisers in the fleet, Carignan said.
The plan is to continue buying sports utility vehicles until only SUVs make up the fleet.
“We’re just a few vehicles shy of doing that,” Carignan said after noting that the SUVs are only about $2,000 more than the sedans and are needed to hold all the equipment officers carry.
The purchase follows news of Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson buying an electric vehicle.
“My joke, captain, is that you can’t have a Tesla no matter how nice they are even though someone bought a Tesla,” Select Board Chairman Tim Wessel said.
Carignan called the sheriff’s new vehicle “very snazzy.”
“But that is not in the cards for our request this year,” he said.
The department looked at the possibility of purchasing an all-electric vehicle for detective use, Carignan said.
“The concern is that we still do install some emergency lights in the detective’s vehicle as well as radios and scanners and that sort of thing, and to my knowledge there is not a hybrid or electric vehicle that has an electronic drive function to the wheels that is set up to have that equipment installed,” he said.
The plan is to try to track the fuel consumption, vehicle performance and maintenance needs of the hybrid to see if there’s any differences. Carignan said the hybrid feature adds about $3,300 to the cost of Ford vehicles the department purchases.
“Ford claims data that a police vehicle idles five hours per shift,” he previously told the Reformer in an email. “We were unable to determine the source of that data but it does not accurately reflect BPD idle time. For BPD, static traffic enforcement and idling at scenes such as collisions likely averages closer to two hours per shift (estimate). Running a car two shifts per day, 365 days per year results in 1,460 annual idle hours per vehicle.”
With Ford reporting gas SUVs burning 0.465 gallons an hour when idling versus 0.204 gallons an hour for hybrids, Carignan anticipates the department could save about 380 gallons of fuel every year or 1,520 gallons over an expected four-year use of the the vehicle. For environmental benefits, he said a gallon of gas when burned creates about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide so the hybrid could potentially save about 7,220 pounds of carbon dioxide each year or 28,880 pounds over four years.
In August, the town’s Department of Public Works purchased two Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids to replace two compact cars in the utilities division as a way to increase fuel efficiency.
“The plug-in hybrids can be charged overnight at the facility and will allow for approximately 25 miles of fully electric travel,” states a memo from the department. “In many instances, this will cover the vehicles’ daily usage.”
The department reported having “great success” with a hybrid Chevrolet Volt driven by Josh Carnes, engineer technician. He estimated that less than $100 of gas is burned each year in his vehicle, which was purchased in 2018 and is estimated to be able to travel about 420 miles on a full electric charge and full fuel tank, and more than 1,000 miles before needing refueling.
The Volt is described in a memo as operating as “a pure battery electric vehicle until its battery capacity drops to a predetermined threshold from full charge. The all-electric range is 53 miles; after that, the gas engine starts up to recharge the battery and the combustion engine powers an electric generator to extend the vehicle’s range as needed.”