This week, Ford announced its first plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) for police departments and government customers. The cars’ release comes several months after the automaker unveiled its first hybrid police car.
Ford claims the Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan can drive up to 21 miles on a single charge and can go as fast as 85 miles per hour on battery power alone; in addition, the company promises the cars’ full hybrid-electric powertrain has a total range of 500 miles.
So at a time when gas prices are still stubbornly low, and electric cars keep improving in performance and range, the question begs: are PHEVs necessary at all?
According to Ford, economics dictate “yes.”
Indeed, consumer demand for PHEVs and hybrids are relatively modest among retail customers. But Ford claims it has experienced a steady demand from municipalities, especially in large cities, and constituents are demanding vehicles for city workers that are more fuel efficient. New York City, for example, ordered 1,800 Ford Fusion Hybrids last year before the company introduced its police hybrid car this April. Philadelphia ordered plug-in Fusion Energi sedans for its citywide fleet earlier this year. “We have second generation battery electrics in the works now, but based on our current offerings, our hybrids and plug-ins better meet the needs for police work,” a Ford spokesperson explained to TriplePundit.
The number of miles driven also makes PHEVs a compelling economic case for city procurement departments and police departments. Across the U.S., various municipal and county governments have different mileage requirements for their police and other municipal departments before those cars are transitioned out of those fleets.
But in comparison to retail customers, who may drive about 15,000 miles or less per year, police vehicles routinely drive as much as 20,000 or even 25,000 miles annually. “If you consider the inordinate amount of time spent idling on the side of the road on patrol, the payback period is much faster than one would expect given miles per year projections - a gas-powered vehicle idling gets exactly zero miles per gallon,” said Ford’s spokesperson.
Ford said that police officers routinely spend eight hours a day in their vehicles. When idling, these police cars shoulder heavy electrical load demands from equipment such as computers, lights and radio transmitters. Every minute needed to power these auxiliary electrical loads without the gas engine running, in turn, offers city budgets a break.
Then there are the maintenance benefits. Brakes wear out much more slowly in PHEVs, said Ford, because of regenerative braking. These cars’ engines should last longer as they are not running as much as internal combustion engine (ICE) models. “The signal we’ve seen from the fleet market is that in big cities, hybrids are just the right thing to do for their constituents for urban air quality, carbon fuel reductions and overall efficiency improvements,” said Ford’s spokesperson.
Ford said customers will be able to order the Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan next month, with sales and deliveries starting next summer.
Image credit: Ford
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.