If you’re the getaway driver, seeing the cops coming after you in a fleet of hybrids may be a reassuring sight. What, they’re gonna chase me down in those things? But, as the triumphant officers will surely tell you as you sit in your cell, pairing an electric motor with a petite gasoline engine doesn’t just make a car eco-friendly. It can make it faster off the line, not to mention more comfortable, and practical for police purposes.
Ford’s betting the advantages of hybrids are enough to convince cops around the country to buy its new Police Responder Hybrid Sedan—the first ever “pursuit rated” hybrid. To earn its badge, this beefed up Fusion braved speed and handling trials, raced over 8-inch curbs, blasted through a railroad crossing at 30 mph, sprinted and screeched to a halt.
It got through it all thanks to a series of upgrades. Ford’s police vehicle engineering team added a heavy duty suspension, extra cooling, and ditched fancy alloys for basic wheels and hubcaps. They played Santa’s elves with the police wish list: Bullet proof doors. Front seats anti-stab plates, and slim side bolsters, to better fit officers wearing equipment belts. A wipe clean rear seat. A pre-drilled hole in the windscreen surround for a spotlight.
Despite all the heavy enhancements, the cruiser delivers 38 miles to the gallon (the standard Fusion Hybrid does 42), compared to the current Police Interceptor’s 18 mpg.
“Patrol vehicles are a police officer’s office,” LAPD chief Carlie Beck said in a statement. “We expect them to not only be economically and environmentally efficient but also an effective tool for fighting crime in major metropolitan areas.”
The Responder Hybrid Sedan runs a two-liter engine coupled to an electric motor. The car can run in electric-only mode up to 60 mph (for short periods), useful for quiet patrolling. But when the driver mashes the accelerator, the car’s computer dials in “pursuit mode,” firing up the gas engine and reconfiguring vehicle systems to deliver maximum performance. Engineers retuned the regenerative braking to aggressively charge the battery whenever the vehicle slows, so that there’s always some charge left for the next acceleration boost.
Ford has been making cop cars since the 1920s, and its Crown Victoria reigned supreme for years. But competitors have grabbed chunks of the market—notably Dodge with the Charger—and the automaker sees the hybrid as a way to stay competitive. Each hybrid car could save police $3,800 a year in fuel. Regenerative braking reduces brake wear, and because the engine isn’t always running, you don’t need to change the oil so often. Plus, there’s the question of comfort. A 10-hour shift spent sitting in a car gets way nicer if the vehicle isn’t idling and vibrating the entire time. Plus, less time at the pump means more time at the donut shop.
And for the folks who mock the Left Lane Prius, crawling along at 50 mph on the freeway, there will be a brutal irony in being chased and pulled over for speeding around it by an officer in a hybrid.