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Michigan police departments consider electric vehicles as gas prices rise

Posted at 5:36 AM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 06:16:00-04

(WXYZ) — The prices at the pump have some police departments in metro Detroit closely monitoring expenses.

But in places like Ann Arbor where half the police department's fleet is hybrid, the financial impact isn't as severe.

According to Ann Arbor police, the department has seen an 80 percent increase in fuel economy. Meanwhile, gas prices have other cities and police departments with regular cars running over budget.

"None of our patrol vehicles are EV yet because none of the American-made vehicles are pursuit-rated by Michigan State Police. But all of our patrol fleets [are] getting transitioned to hybrid vehicles," Deputy Chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department Jason Forsberg said.

He says 50% of the fleet is hybrid. Hybrids rely partly on a battery, so when the car is on but sitting still no gas is wasted.

Missy Stults, the manager of sustainability says in 2020, Ann Arbor used 50,000 gallons less because of their hybrid vehicles. Those vehicles are used for city and police business.

She also estimates a total savings of about $100,000 a year due to the cars, but for her community, it's not just about money.

"We are hearing more and more about the impacts of climate change," Stults said. "It is not in the future, it is here today and so people are taking it much more seriously in terms of their investments, and fleets [are] one way that municipalities can make a really big impact really quick."

Ann Arbor has just under 400 total vehicles in its fleet. Of those, 13 are hybrid-drivetrains, all in the police department and 30 plug-in EVs, seven of which are in the police department.

Stults said the city has 17 more all-electric vehicles and nine more hybrid vehicles on order, and they may order more as the market changes.

Commissioner Bill Dwyer says the Warren Police Department wants to follow Ann Arbor's lead.

He says soaring gas prices are eating away at his bottom line.

"We certainly have to come up with a better cost-saving program as far as reducing the cost to taxpayers," he said. "Without sacrificing services and that's the important thing to note."

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard says his deputies drove more than 5.5 million miles last year. That's equivalent to 12 trips from here to the moon and back.

"That is a pretty big impact when you talk about fuel prices going up," Bouchard said. "Now we have one benefit that the average consumer doesn't have is we don't pay all the crazy taxes."

Regardless, with a $1.5 million cut to his budget last year Bouchard says the money just isn't there. He's in favor of using hybrids but says they need to have the infrastructure to support the transition.

Stults suggests starting small.

"Code enforcement, those are really smart vehicles because they are driving a short distance and then they are sitting and then they're driving a short then they are sitting. So those use cases work really really well for things like electric vehicles," Stults said.

Stults says they have more than 30 fully electric vehicles and have ordered 20 more.

Two of which are garbage/recycling (refuse) trucks. These will be the first of their kind in Michigan.