European Police Battle Crime, and Global Warming, with Electric Cars
Movies show police cars doing all kinds of high-speed stunts, but the daily routine of police vehicles is much less exciting and energy consuming. The average day is more commonly spent cruising at 30 mph, or at even lower speeds. That's perfectly suited to an electric car. Some private security services have been using low-speed EVs for few years in fairgrounds or industrial areas, but several Europeans police forces are now officially experimenting with electric cars.
The first were the British. The Thames Valley police bought a Mitsubishi i-MiEV in May 2011. That car is used for routine non-emergency duties in and around Milton Keynes city center. A couple other British cities got Mitsubishi electric cars, with the goal to protect future generations from the worst effects of global warming, but also to protect the public purse from the inevitable and relentless rise in fuel prices. In Germany, the Berlin police bought six electric cars in January. That was part of the Initiative 120 plan, with the goal to have the average police car's CO2 emissions below 120 grams per km (193 grams per mile). The fleet has several powerful cars, but the addition of two Mitsubishi i-MiEV; two Renault Kangoo Z.E.; two Renault Fluence Z.E.; and two Opel Ampera plug-in hybrids (the European sister of the Chevrolet Volt) makes its average vehicle quite green.
Finally, the Portuguese police, the PSP (Polícia de Segurança Pública) received eight Nissan LEAFs last month. There are also plans for electric police cars in France and the Netherlands, and frankly, it makes sense. To be greener, some policemen are now riding a bike. Then in some cities, the police had famously brought back the horse, but many European cities are not well suited to horse-riding anymore. An EV is much better, and it's a car, offering full weather protection. But the electric car's main asset is assuredly its silent operation. Most often, the police don't want to be heard coming and going. Performance is no match for the thieves who drive fast German sedans but all the police officers have radios. They also have cameras. Range is more of a concern, especially considering that all police vehicles need extra lights and equipment (radio, computer, siren...). Heating is also a serious issue, because policemen expect a real heater, not heated seats. But in Europe at least, there are many places where a police car is driven less than 50 miles per day. Or more precisely per shift—electric cars will not be able to have the same 24/7 rhythm as their gasoline counterparts.
There are still issues with pricing, as most police forces have seen their budgets reduced in recent years. Also, the reliability of electric cars is not yet proven, but perception will change over time as police fleet managers log more miles.
Carmakers, including BMW, are expecting a rise of EV sales to police forces. The GPEC is Europe's largest show for police equipment. BMW will be there to show its 3-series and X3 models, but an i3, the upcoming compact electric car will also be there. The i3 will not be available before the second half of next year, but the police are notoriously slow to decide, when it comes to a product they've never bought before. BMW's starting early to show them an EV, because there's little doubt that the mission of police officers around the world—to serve and protect—will include reducing their CO2 emissions and energy consumption.
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