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MIPD purchases first hybrid patrol car
The Mercer Island Police Department has purchased its first hybrid vehicle. As of this month, Island officers will be driving a 2010 Ultra Low Emmissions (ULE) Toyota Highlander. The flashy SUV runs off electricity and gas. It replaces a Ford Crown Victoria patrol car that was totaled last year.
According to MIPD Operations Commander Dave Jokinen, the department's patrol officers have yet to test the new vehicle.
"Our first step will be testing and evaluating the vehicle to see how it performs," he said, adding that other U.S. police departments reported positive feedback on Toyota hybrid models. "One agency we spoke with was in Aspen, Colo. All of their hybrid patrol cars are Toyotas. The Seattle Police Department has some of these as staff cars too."
The 2010 Highlander is the first hybrid car to be introduced to the city of Mercer Island, and the first hybrid patrol car in the Northwestern corner of the United States. Other police departments have hybrid cars for staff to drive, but no ULE patrol vehicles.
The city of Mercer Island already owns two electric cars; a battery-operated truck and sedan that were purchased in 2008 for the Maintenance and Development Services Department. Unlike the Toyota, the electric cars only reach a top speed of approximately 40 mph. In comparison, the MIPD's new hybrid has 270 horsepower and all-wheel drive, allowing it to reach speeds of more than 60 mph.
The vehicle cost the city $36,000 before taxes, which came out of a $135,000 grant for sustainability projects from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Jokinen is curious to see how the hybrid performs as a patrol vehicle.
"The hard thing is that our vehicles are run seven days a week, 24 hours a day -- that's a lot of wear and tear," he said. "We want all of our patrol officers to drive and test [the hybrid] under different conditions and find out whatever issues and problems it may have."
The Toyota hybrid is currently being outfitted as it was not initially designed as a police car.
"The Ford Crown Victoria has been our police car forever and so there are lots of manufactures. But there' aren't too many for the Touota hybrid," Jokinen explained. "Our outfitter is getting custom work done for a cage in the back, police radio, computer wiring -- all that extra police equipment.
The MIPD, along with other city departments, is planning to introduce more electric or hybrid vehicles to its employees as part of an effort to reduce Mercer Island's carbon footprint.
"In the next couple of years there will be more police vehicles desinged to be hybrids," the MIPD operations commander said.
City staff and Councilmembers have outwardly expressed their commitment to this goal. Electric auto charging stations will soon be an Island reality, according to Councilmember Mike Grady.
"This coming year, you'll start to see charging stations on Mercer Island and electric cars driving around," he said.
Indeed, this transformation has already begun.
"You'll see our hybrid patrol car around town," said Jokinen. "The next time you're pulled over, you may be getting stopped by a green vehicle."