SLCPD wants to replace aging patrol cars with fast, environmentally-friendly hybrids

SALT LAKE CITY -- The engine purrs as Police Chief Mike Brown accelerates up 400 South, hugging the curves of the road.

"For urban policing, for day-to-day, call-to-call, this is a great car," he told FOX 13.

The chief is showing off a new, environmentally friendlier police car that he'd like to buy to replace Salt Lake City's aging fleet with. The Ford Responder is a custom-made, hybrid electric/gas police patrol car.

"This is a great car. And this is a greener shade of blue," he said.

Unlike other hybrid vehicles, the Ford Responder is made for law enforcement. It has a faster acceleration and can handle speeds up to 137 miles-per-hour. It also has a bigger battery to handle what an officer actually spends the bulk of their time doing -- sitting in an idling vehicle either writing reports or responding to calls. Chief Brown estimates an officer spends as much as five hours out of an eight hour shift idling.

"This car, when we sit, it shuts down and runs off batteries. So you’re not burning any gas at that time," he said.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski's proposed budget would spend $4 million to purchase 110 new hybrid patrol cars. The chief estimates those cars would save $250,000 annually in fuel costs to the city and remove three million pounds of CO2 from the air.

"If you’re looking for fuel savings, something that does well in an urban environment and you want to be conscious of the environment that we all are looking forward to do. This puts us on a path," Chief Brown said.

Salt Lake City Councilwoman Amy Fowler said she supports the purchase.

"We have an aging fleet that really needs to be upgraded. This allows us to meet sort of, two birds with one stone," she said.

Chief Brown said he gets regular complaints from citizens upset that police cars are idling when the city itself can ticket others for doing the same (but emergency response vehicles are exempt). The number one source of pollution along the Wasatch Front is automobiles.

Councilwoman Fowler said the new patrol cars would help cut vehicle pollution from the city's end.

"The police part of our fleet is 40 percent of our fleet inventory. That’s the largest part of our fleet inventory," she said.

The Salt Lake City Council is expected to have a presentation on the fleet purchase request this week. The budget will be voted on by the end of this month.

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