Police saving fuel money with new vehicles in San Mateo County

Local police agencies are saving money on fuel after switching to new motorcycles and cruisers — the latter change was driven by the demise of a popular car.

The Ford Motor Co. ceased production of the Crown Victoria in 2011. That car, widely used by police agencies for cruisers, is being replaced by the Police Interceptor sedan and Police Interceptor utility vehicle, which are based on Ford's Taurus sedan and Explorer SUV.

Tom Shiosaka, motor vehicles supervisor for the Daly City Police Department, said his organization has eight Police Interceptor sedans and four Explorer-based Police Interceptor utility vehicles in its fleet. He said the new vehicles are more expensive than the Crown Victorias, but he estimates they're 20 percent to 30 percent more fuel-efficient.

“We've definitely saved some money on gasoline,” Shiosaka said.

The choice of the vehicles by Daly City police and their fuel savings contrasts with the California Highway Patrol's experience.

CHP Assistant Chief Brent Newman said his agency recently purchased 750 of the Interceptor utility models, roughly 200 of which have been put into service. However, he said the CHP has seen only a small reduction in its fuel consumption.

The CHP chose larger engines and more of the SUV-style vehicles, which, Shiosaka said, are better suited to the CHP's needs.

Newman said his agency hadn't projected significant savings, and therefore isn't disappointed by the results it's getting.

“We're exactly where we had anticipated being,” Newman said.

The CHP assistant chief said the new Interceptors yield other benefits. One example, he said, is their electronic traction control, which reduces the likelihood that an officer will lose control during a high-speed chase.

Pacifica police Capt. Dan Steidle said his agency's fleet is now evenly divided between the old Crown Victorias and the new Taurus-bodied cars. While fuel cost data wasn't readily available, he said the new cars are working out well.

One challenge has been fitting equipment into the vehicle interiors, he said.

“The biggest issue we had was that we never had vehicles that small before,” Steidle said, “It took some finagling to get that to work.”

The San Mateo Police Department just received its new cars, said Field Operations Capt. Wayne Hoss, but his agency is saving fuel funds with other vehicles.

Hoss said the department has begun to replace its Harley-Davidson and Honda motorcycles with fully electric vehicles manufactured by Scotts Valley company Zero Motorcycles.

Hoss said one charge lasts an entire shift, and the bikes easily exceed the 121-mile city range stated by the manufacturer. He said the cost of operation is about a penny per mile.

In addition to being zero emission vehicles, the electric motorcycles also have zero noise emissions, Hoss said.

He said patrol officers love the bikes, because they can hear each other talk while riding side-by-side and the lack of engine noise allows them to be more aware of their surroundings.

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