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Hybrids as emergency vehicles

I have heard that using hybrids for emergency vehicles is problematic due to adding emergency lights and radio equipment causing problems with the electrical systems. Is this true?

I doubt it causes problems. But I’m sure there would be a drastic decrease in gas mileage compared to the NON Emergency vehicle. What Hybrid are you talking about? Which one is actually big enough and practical enough to be used as a Emergency vehicle??

We aree considering a Ford Escape Hybrid, however, I have heard rumours that added electrical devices such as emergency light bars, radio equipment, etc. have caused problems with the electrical systems in hybrids. I like the idea of a hybrid for our patrol usage but I worry about this potential concern. I would like to be sure of my facts. Do you, or anyone you know have any ideas or suggestions on how to research this?

A company that installs emergency vehicle lighting should be able to tell you whether or not the vehicle’s electrical system can handle the load. I don’t see why the Escape Hybrid would have any more difficulty with this than the standard Escape.

Talk to someone with experience, and stop listening to rumors.

We aree considering a Ford Escape Hybrid, however, I have heard rumours that added electrical devices such as emergency light bars, radio equipment, etc. have caused problems with the electrical systems in hybrids.

Where did you hear this b*ll from?? What’s the source??

I don’t see how there could be an electrical problem. Hooking up lights and/or sirens have NOTHING to do with the Hybrid system. They are completely separate systems.

The ONLY thing I’d be concerned with is expecting great gas mileage. It should get better then gas mileage then the NON-Hybrid version (especially if a lot of city driving is involved). But there should be no safety issue what so ever.

Its interesting how we(US) view an emergency vehicle used for patrol needing to be large.

Majority of the civilized world uses smaller vehicles than a crown vic with great success.

Explore what upgrades a non-hybrid needs to be put into use as a emergengy vehicle,will the vehicle you want to use also accept these upgrades? I don’t think the hybrid can enter service without upgrades just like the conventional vehicle cannot.

Ask your local police department what their views are on the subject.

Police vehicles (except for those used for community services) are beefed up to handle the extra electrical loads. (heavy duty alternators, dual batteries, etc)

EMS personnel should be able to advise you as well.

Who would know better than the people who have tried them or actually use hybrids for emergency use?

You would think the engineers would, but that doesn’t always hold true as everyone has different uses and circumstances.

I don’t see why not. Most emergency vehicles are not Hondas and Toyotas, but there are some SUV hybrids that would be just fine.

Majority of the civilized world uses smaller vehicles than a crown vic with great success.

I suggest you do a little research on that. The US is BY FAR way ahead of the rest of the civilized on Emergency Trama. FAR FAR ahead of the rest of the world. The US pioneered the on-site trama care…which many countries are now just adopting. Most other countries just grab and go (we use to do that 30 years ago). Now our EMT’s arrive and provide life saving care and stabilize the patient before transport. Try carrying all equipment needed for true EMT care in a Crown Vic!! You’ll need a trailer or a roof-rack.

What kind of emergency are you talking about? If it basically a haul gear hear to there then you should have no problems. Many of the emergency vehicles that I now are also needed to, in a pinch, be used as a push or pull vehicle.

If you are not in a city I don’t see how a hybrid would be beneficial. The vehicle will either not be stopping enough, driving fairly fast, or accelerating quickly under any of those situations you would be using your gas engine more anyway.

I doubt if they would be a good choice today. Too expensive, too little benefit from the hybrid feature etc.

“Do you, or anyone you know have any ideas or suggestions on how to research this?”

For the Escape, I would contact FORD. They are very interested in developing new markets for their vehicles. Mcparadise has good advice. Find the closest police/emergency outfitter and talk to them.

Note that current Crown Victoria Police Interceptor models currently (if you will forgive the word use) have a 130 amp alternator compared to 100 amps for the non PIs. The battery is identical. The idle speed it programmed higher to aid cooling and increase alternator output when they are not moving. They do come with an auxiliary wiring harness for radios, computers and lights. That makes stuff a lot easier to add, but it is certainly possible to add this wiring to any vehicle. You might be able to get an electrical shop to make you or adapt a higher output alternator and upgrade the cables.

I suspect that the power demand for lights has dropped significantly due to the use of LEDs and strobes. Radio transmission, however, is still a big, intermittent load.

Even in an urban environment a hybrid is probably not going to be of much use for typical police duty. They sit idling a lot of the time. The engine shut-off at stop will have to be disabled.

Have you contacted the manufacturers?

First responder vehicles are generally built on platforms designed by the mnufacturers specifically for this purpose. Even something like a patrol car that has no need for the equipment that, say, and ambulance would need has to be capable of sitting in one spot for extended periods of time with the light bar and the strobes running. Depending on the setup of the hybrid it may require special vehicle equipment.

Your operational needs may matter too. For a rural town like Grand Forks, North Dakota it might work fine. For Boston perhaps not so well. Heck, in many rural towns the sheriff is the law and uses his personal vehicle.

Selecting a vheicle for “emergency response” is much more detailed than you would think. Remember, the word ‘Emergency’ is included in the description. There are many types of emergency, and vheicle selection must include the worst case useage.

The worst case would be a serious disaster. (Think New Orleans and Katrina} There were many calls for help and a limited supply of responders. Those vehicles were in constant use. How much time was available for re-fueling? Very little. How long would it take to refuel a gasoline powered vheicle vs. an all electric vheicle? You are literally talking minutes versus hours. Gasoline was still available from storage. The electric grid was gone.

When you request assistance from Fire, Police or other emergency responder, does anyone ask, “Gee why did you not come in a vheicle more environmentally friendly car?” No. You just want them there fast.

Lastly, Hybrids cost more to acquire, operate and maintain. Are you willing to write your local governments and sign your name to a letter that says, “Mr Mayor, please raise my taxes.” My experience is this is the last thing 95% of the public will do. The public wants more services while paying less.

Have you looked into your local police car lately? You will be shocked to find several radios, several computers, a printer, enforcement equipment light bars made with LED lights to reduce the electric demand. GPS equipment, Video cameras and recording equipment, and more. Most all of it hooked together and communicating to each other and recorded. All this to act as evidence in court that officer Sal did what he/she said they did and the ‘perp’ did not do what he/she said they did.

When the price comes down, the local governments will switch to the lower cost vheicle.

Book Em, Danno!


If they can do it then so can you.

The problems cmes from having the vehicle sit “idling”. When the vehicle is sitting there with warning lights operating directly off of the battery pack. Remember, emergency vehicles do not get the same warranty as your private vehicle. Problem is percieved because of excessive battery drain. Now if the battery pack can power a car/SUV, shouldn’t it be able to run some LED lights? I know on our regular trucks they are beefed up because of the high power demands, the hybrids are a new ball of wax we in emergency management are trying to get our arms around.

Ford’s hybrid and not hybrid police vehicles:

Actually this question has been studied with the exact vehicle in question (Ford Escape Hybrid). This vehicle was found to actually cost less than comparable units in use now, while reducing fuel costs significantly. This is largely academic now since Ford has discontinued this particular Escape platform, but still helps answer the question that was originally raised. For more information see this article: