The Vancouver Police Department is set to become one of the first police forces in the world to ignore the stigma of widely using fully electric cars for policing purposes.
By the end of the year, the department will be adding 20 Ford Focus Electric Hatchback 2017 models to its vehicle fleet to replace 20 aging gas-powered cars. It already owns two of these vehicles, and the acquisition will push its electric vehicle fleet size to 22.
The vehicles have an engine output of 143 hp, a range of 180 kms in an urban environment, and a charging speed of 30 mins to reach 80% of the battery’s capacity.
“The VPD is committed to reducing our carbon footprint and our reliance upon fossil fuels,” said VPD Fleet Manager Rob Rothwell in a statement to Daily Hive. “The VPD supports the City of Vancouver’s goal of being the greenest city by 2020.”
But before the new vehicles can be used by the force, the VPD is looking for a private contractor to perform up-fitting work on the electric vehicles. This includes the installation of emergency lighting and auxiliary batteries for auxiliary equipment.
The department also owns eight hybrid vehicles for use by investigative and administrative staff and recently added two electric motorcycles to cover high pedestrian and cyclist areas in downtown Vancouver.
How practical is an electric vehicle for policing?
A 2014 UBC survey and study that evaluated the VPD’s vehicle performance and identified more efficient alternatives found that the replacement of a single gas-powered car with a fully-electric vehicle would save the department $9,292. Most of the savings come from the lower operational costs of plugging in the vehicles instead of using gas fuel.
The report adds that if the entire fleet were replaced with electric vehicles, the department could save an estimated $1.04 million per year.
Although it recommended the usage of electric vehicles, it also identified potential flexibility challenges with ensuring a vehicle is adequately charged, to the extent that it suggested the VPD should develop a policy to ensure that the electric vehicles are connected to a charging station as often as possible.
“For example, electric vehicles should only be able to be reserved a maximum of 30 minutes in advance of the departure time, so that they remain at the charging stations and connected to the charging port for as long as possible,” the study read.
“This may resolve the potential problem of key hogging and help to maintain the internet communications link between the vehicles and the central key desk.”
Its survey of 96 VPD investigative and administrative personnel found that a total vehicle range of 80 kms would be sufficient for most respondent’s daily needs. Their greatest concerns with using a electric vehicle for their work revolved around:
- the possibility of running out of electricity
- the ease of finding a charging station
- dependability and flexibility
- performance if required to assist on a call
- ability to perform emergency duties if or when required
- acceleration of the vehicle
- torque and handling