The Selectboard approved the purchase of the Town's first hybrid vehicle, a 2022 Ford Police Intercepter Utility. It has an EPA-estimated combined rating of 24 mpg. That doesn't sound like a lot until you consider the vehicle is a pursuit-rated, all-wheel-drive SUV. According to the Town's Green Fleet Report in the 2021 Town Report, 24 mpg is an improvement of over 70% to the 14 mpg of the vehicle it’s replacing, a 2015 Ford Police Intercepter sedan.
However, those numbers might be optimistic. Chief Evans said at a Selectboard meeting that the Fleet Maintenance Supervisor for Hanover reported a peak of 19 mpg for the new hybrid vehicle, and, after two years of data, 17 mpg represented a more accurate average. That's an improvement over the 11 mpg Hanover's SUVs were previously getting before switching to hybrids, but just over 20% better than Thetford's sedans.
The argument for larger vehicles in Thetford is two fold. One, rural patrols frequently require travel on unpaved roads and questionable driveways, which can pose an even bigger challenge in mud season. Two, since assisting agencies are further away in a rural town like Thetford than they might be in a Hanover or a Lebanon, Thetford officers need to be prepared to respond to a wider range of scenarios on their own. That means carrying more gear, whether it’s an EMT bag or snowshoes for a winter search-and-rescue.
The hybrid was examined in 2019 by Town officials, but a purchase was delayed while other area departments moved forward. Chief Evans reported that, after talking with other departments in the area, "there were minor issues at first, quirks or bugs related to electronics. Initially, dealerships didn't know how to deal with it effectively, but they seem to have a handle on it now."
The Police Intercepter uses the same technology as the Ford Explorer hybrid platform that has been in use by taxi fleets in New York City for over a decade.
The biggest savings could be on reduced idle time, both in terms of emissions and wear and tear on the engine. A Thetford patrol vehicle can spend a third to a half of its shift being stationary. If the hybrid gets the conservative estimate of 17 mpg, it could mean a savings of around 220 gallons of fuel per year. If it gets the EPA-rated 24 mpg — and this vehicle will be highway-commuting from Windsor — a savings of over 560 gallons could be realized.
Thetford's police department emitted 34.2 tons of CO2 in 2020. Depending on fuel economy, replacing the older sedan with the newer hybrid, albeit a larger vehicle, could reduce that impact by between 2.5 and 6 tons per year.
"The second sedan will need to be replaced soon as well," Chief Evans informed the Selectboard. A second hybrid, replacing Thetford's other 2015 Ford Police Intercepter sedan, would almost double the decrease in emissions.
Photo credit: Ford promotional image