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Talk about rebranding. The other day brought news that the New York Police Department – those tough-talking, gun-toting, crime-fighting guys and gals you recognize from many a cop show – were going green. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a handful of Chevy Volts, GM’s plug-in electric hybrid model, would be joining the fleet. New York’s finest, and toughest, would now be driving the same car that’s typically the choice of all those dreadlocked, granola-eating, hackysack-playing hippies clasping hands and dancing around the San Francisco Bay.

That, at least, was the lead that was very much buried in the announcement the city made. In a sense, though, Mayor Bloomberg et al. felt they had a larger story to tell. The handful of cars that would be added to the NYPD fleet were joined by a larger collection to be assigned to various departments. All told, 50 Chevy Volt hatchbacks (of which a few go to the police), 10 all-electric Ford Transit Connect cargo vans, and 10 all-electric Navistar eStar electric utility trucks would be joining NYC’s fleet. As the city now points out, New York now has the “largest municipal electric vehicle fleet in the country, now totaling 430 electric vehicles.”

While some might worry that just adds one more thing for New Yorkers to be smug about, it is, we must admit, also something to be commended. The green cop cars (and other vehicles) are part of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, an ambitious vision of greening the city by 2030. And to his credit, rather than merely spin it into a PR victory, Bloomberg and his staff took the occasion to use the news of the electric car additions to educate the public a bit more about EVs in general.

The hope is that not only the city but also its dwellers will soon go green in their automotive options. “When provided with the facts, people become far more likely to choose an electric vehicle,” said Bloomberg (a recent study by McKinsey and Company bears this out – only about a third of New Yorkers know much about EVs, it found, and a fifth of those educated about EVs suddenly expressed an interest in buying them). Then Bloomberg’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability screened a film called Revenge of the Electric Car, which is not the horror film it sounds like, but rather a documentary.

So in the next generation of cop shows, will we be seeing brawny, tough cops chasing crooks through the city – only to stop and plug in for a quick recharge? Not anytime soon; the Volts, the city informs us, will be used for “non-emergency duties” like traffic enforcement. The next parking ticket you get in New York, then, might just be green.

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