Ford is in the process of applying hybrid technology to a vehicle type that seems like a natural fit for it: police cars.
It’s about time. Ford claims to have the industry’s first pursuit-rated hybrid police car with the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan—the police-duty version of the 2019 Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan that will soon be delivered to departments around the nation, including to the New York Police Department.
The company announced today that it is starting to finalize orders for its first Responder Hybrid Sedans, aimed at cities and urban duty. The largest single order so far, of 156 Responder hybrids, comes from the NYPD. Major police departments in Los Angeles; Columbus, Ohio; Salt Lake City; South Miami; and Virginia have ordered 10 to 150 of these hybrid sedans each.
This isn’t the first time Ford’s hybrid system has been deep-cycled in 24/7 urban duty. Nearly a decade ago earlier versions of the same system were getting put to the test, in taxi fleets in New York, San Francisco, and other big cities. According to Ford, just over 90 percent of the original 2005-2012 Escape Hybrids are still in use today.
Ford’s two current Police Interceptor vehicles together have a 65-percent share of the police market, while the current Police Interceptor Utility (a brawny Explorer) has a 52-percent share of the whole police-vehicle market. So it’s important to live up to those models’ performance.
2018 Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan pursuit-rated police car
The Fusion Hybrid-based Responder gets front deflector plates and police-purposed wheels, tires, and hubcaps. In all, it’s designed to be put up with occasionally being driven over curbs, or through flooded intersections, with a water-fording depth of 18 inches at 15 mph or 10 inches at 40 mph.
Its regenerative braking system has been tuned for police-duty (made more aggressive), and the car is fitted with larger 17-inch rotors with twin-piston calipers, heavy-duty suspension components, and police-purpose wheels and tires
Otherwise, the Responder Hybrid Sedan has the same 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 and battery pack as the Fusion Hybrid, and Ford’s hybrid system, with its dual motors, is carried over from the version of this sedan you’ll find at dealerships.
The system makes the same 188 total horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque as the Fusion Hybrid, but adds an upgraded 165-amp alternator, plus a performance driving mode that allows the system to keep the hybrid battery topped off and allow that maximum system power for a longer time. In consumer form, the Fusion Hybrid’s EPA rating is 40 mpg city, 36 highway, 38 combined.
Ford claims that the Police Responder Hybrid is the first “pursuit-rated” hybrid. In order to be called that, a police vehicle doesn’t go through any special sanctioned procedure, but there is an honor system. It depends on the official nod from two organizations that test the full array of police vehicles each year, the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
In Michigan testing, for instance, the vehicle must be able to complete 32 timed laps of dynamics testing at Grattan Raceway without any major component failure. The Michigan State Police also tested the Responder (Fusion Hybrid) to 60 mph and 100 mph and found times of 9.05 and 24.36 seconds, respectively—not quick, but likely fast enough for urban patrol.
Safety-wise, the Interceptor models, positioned for highway use, are subjected to a 75-mph rear-impact test—versus the 50-mph test that other vehicles are subjected to.
The next act for Ford police vehicles will be the Interceptor Hybrid Utility. The current versions of the Interceptor Utility are offered with a 3.7-liter V-6 or 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6, but the next version, to be revealed in greater detail around the middle of next year, will be also be a hybrid.
2020 Ford Interceptor Utility - Michigan State Police report
Ford won’t release specs for the all-wheel-drive Explorer Hybrid or the Interceptor Hybrid for months, but Michigan State Police results list the vehicle as having a 3.3-liter engine and 10-speed automatic transmission.
Those third-party tests already show the Interceptor Hybrid accelerating very quickly—second only to the current Interceptor Utility in 0-100 mph acceleration and lap time. It outperformed V-8 powered utilities, and Ford’s current 3.7-liter engine (though not quite that turbo V-6).
Cities opting for hybrids at what’s likely a higher cost per vehicle expect some kind of payback for taxpayers. Ford sees a very significant one: nearly $3,900 a year in fuel costs alone, at an average gas price of $2.50 a gallon—or up to $7,000 at $4.50 a gallon—assuming 20,000 miles per year, two shifts a day year-round, and 4.9 hours of idling per eight-hour shift. And we would imagine that some of the other hybrid maintenance benefits, like reduced brake-service intervals, apply here, too.
Police cars idle for long periods, with high-drain equipment like lights, printers, and radio equipment. Ford tests them with a 32-amp load balance, not including the electrically operated A/C compressor that’s also turned on for the test.
The hybrid system can reduce engine run time during idling situations by up to two-thirds in the Fusion-based Responder Hybrid Sedan, saving more than a quarter gallon an hour just there, and by up to 80 percent in the future Explorer-based Interceptor SUV.
“Customers are used to making tradeoffs, and used to trading interior and cargo space,” said Steve Tyler, Ford’s Police Brand Marketing Manager. “Here we’re actually giving a performance improvement, and not losing any passenger space.”
Just as with taxis, it seems city police cars now have very little reason not to go hybrid.