When the Region of Peel committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, the time was right for the Peel Police Service to make a switch.
“The Region’s climate change management team estimated that Peel police vehicles contribute up to about 7,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year,” says Mark Figueiredo, Director of Materials Management, Peel Regional Police. He adds that this is the case since police vehicles run 24/7.
Over two years, the Peel police fleet has acquired 84 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid vehicles, which are essentially a police version of a Ford Explorer.
According to Ford Canada, each vehicle has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11 tons annually, compared to a gas-powered equivalent vehicle. “We’re very excited about that because we can make a sizeable impact on our carbon footprint,” notes Figueiredo.
Reduced maintenance costs
In addition to reducing the service’s carbon footprint, hybrid vehicles have also reduced maintenance costs. That’s due to the vehicle running on the engine as well as the battery.
“Normally we bring the gas equivalent of this vehicle in for service every 5,000 kilometres for preventive maintenance,” explains Figueiredo. “We’ve already increased that threshold to 8,000 kilometres for the hybrid.”
The vehicles also feature regenerative braking, which will reduce the brake service cost. “Brakes are usually one of the biggest maintenance items, but due to regenerative braking, they won’t require as much maintenance,” reports Figueiredo.
And fuel savings have been rolling in. “In the last year, the hybrids have cost about 17 cents per kilometre, while the gas version was costing about 23 cents per kilometre,” says Figueiredo.
“On average, it’s saving us 35 percent on fuel.” A police patrol car covers about 40,000 kilometres annually.
Eventually, all 300 Peel patrol vehicles will be hybrid. “We’re on a green journey,” claims Figueiredo. “The hybrid is a great transition vehicle towards electric down the road.”
The actual interior and exterior dimensions of the hybrid are no different from the gas version of the vehicle, which Peel has used for several years.
“We buy the same light bar for the top of the car, the same cage to separate the police officer from any potential prisoners in the back seat, the same amount for computer and radio,” explains Figueiredo.
“The officers love the space that comes with the utility vehicle, considering what they have to wear on their body armour. It also gives them a lot of space in the trunk for storage.”
Rated as a police pursuit vehicle
The Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid was tested at Michigan state and rated as a “police pursuit-rated vehicle.” It underwent all the tests required, such as braking, performance, suspension, acceleration, to achieve this designation.
“We use it in marked patrol, responding to calls, and also have a few in our canine bureau,” reveals Figueiredo.
Ford Canada arranged for tech training on the vehicle to be done in-house, so all Peel techs attended a two-day training session that covered how to properly service the vehicle.
“There are additional safety precautions that have to be followed because they’re now dealing with a high voltage battery,” explains Figueiredo.
No special equipment was required to be installed at the Peel repair facility since the techs were not dealing with the battery. The battery is under warranty for eight years, and the vehicle is usually decommissioned by then.
A bulletin to the five Peel police divisions was released when the hybrids were first launched, explaining how driving a hybrid differed from a gas vehicle.
“When the driver is at low speeds, the vehicle runs off the battery,” describes Figueiredo. “At high speeds, it transitions to the engine, and you can feel that little change.”
There’s also regenerative braking, which kicks in as soon the gas pedal is released. “That can feel a little choppy.”
But overall, the response has been positive. “The younger officers especially like the environmental benefits of the vehicle,” notes Figueiredo.
Eventually, the entire Peel police fleet will be hybrid, to switch to electric vehicles. “Police vehicles are used 24/7, and there are range issues,” explains Figueiredo. There must also be a supply of equipment for the vehicles.
“If we were in Florida or California and didn’t have to worry about cold weather, they could maintain their battery performance. Officers work a 12-hour shift and don’t have time to return to the division to charge if the range isn’t there.”
“The hybrid is a great transition vehicle, while we wait for the market to catch up on the electric vehicle side. You can start incrementally changing behaviour without affecting service.”