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Sustainable Energy

Ford’s New Hybrid Cop Car Cuts Emissions While Chasing Criminals

Fear not, car-chase fans: it will still rattle over railroad tracks at 30 miles per hour and bump up eight-inch curbs without a worry.

Car chases are about to get a little more refined.

There is no shortage of Hollywood chase scenes, filmed around the streets of New York City and San Francisco, where hulking cop vehicles chase after vintage muscle cars in dappled sunlight. Suspensions roll, tires squeal, and, perhaps most notably, V8 engines roar. Soon, though, things could sound rather different when an outlaw tries to evade capture.

Ford’s latest police car is certainly no wimp. It’s pursuit-rated, which means that it’s passed a series of grueling challenges that police agencies deem essential if the car is to cope with a life of chasing criminals. It crosses railroad tracks at 30 miles per hour, bumps up eight-inch curbs, splashes through 10 inches of water at 40 miles per hour, and pulls a nice J-turn. But there’s a secret lurking beneath its hood: it’s a hybrid.

In fact, the Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is the first ever hybrid to pass all those pursuit tests. That means that the first hybrid-hybrid car chase—perhaps the Responder bearing down on a Toyota Prius—is now a genuine possibility.

And a quiet one at that: the car can run in electric-only mode at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour for a short while, allowing for stealthy patrolling. It’s never going to keep up with a sports car, but when running on both electrons and gas it may do a reasonable job of catching non-hybrids, especially over short distances, because its semi-electric setup will allow it to accelerate surprisingly fast. The car also comes loaded with many of the usual features that are now commonplace in police cars: bullet-proof doors, stab-proof seatbacks, wipe-clean rear seats, and so on.

The Responder, which is based on a Ford Fusion, also has hybrid credentials that will please environmentalists. As the Associated Press notes, the nation’s most popular police car, the Taurus Police Interceptor, is powered by a 3.7-liter V6, allowing the car to squeak out just 18 miles per gallon of gas. Teamed with a 1.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery, the Responder’s two-liter, four-cylinder engine gets 38 miles per gallon. Ford says that the car could save police departments $3,877 per vehicle in fuel every year.

Despite the impressive performance and cost savings of going electric, it will take the police longer than it will consumers to abandon gas entirely. That’s because range anxiety and recharge time, while frustrating for regular folks, could be crippling for law enforcers. But a hybrid may make a lot of sense—even if it does make the chase scenes of the future seem a little less exciting. 

(Read more: Associated Press, “Cheap Gas and Big Cars Are Killing Obama’s Fuel Economy Push,” “Here’s Why You Might Be an Electric-Car Owner a Decade from Now”)

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