By Brady Jones
Fighting crime in Chicago will soon be getting a lot greener.
The 2019 Chicago Auto Show unveiled sleek new designs, increased towing capacity and even a pizza-baking concept car. And Ford Motor Company’s new hybrid version of its police SUV, called the Police Interceptor Utility, promises to offer an environmentally friendly option for law enforcement that will reduce both fuel costs and the department’s carbon footprint.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—who noted that he owns a hybrid vehicle—spoke as an invited guest of Ford for the press conference, and he highlighted the long-standing, positive relationship between the company and the city.
“I want to thank Ford for their leadership,” Emanuel said. “In 2011, we made a commitment that we were going to do something together, and they brought 1,200 jobs to the Ford plant on the South Side of Chicago. Now they’re bringing 500 more jobs.”
According to Emanuel, the police department utilizes 2,100 Ford Escorts in its vehicle fleet and has an additional 200 on order. The Interceptor hybrid will become an important feature of the department when it is released later this summer.
The introduction of the Interceptor hybrid was part of a broader announcement by Ford that the company will invest $1 billion into its assembly and stamping plants in Chicago and will also create 500 new jobs in the city’s South Side. Joe Hinrichs, president of global operations, spoke about the strong partnership between Ford and the city and stressed the positive impact the company has on the local community and its employees.
“We are proud to be America’s top producer of automobiles,” he stated in a press release. “Today, we are furthering our commitment to America with this billion-dollar manufacturing investment in Chicago and 500 more good-paying jobs.”
The move to a hybrid vehicle will save the police department millions of dollars, according to Hinrichs. He predicted savings on fuel of as much as $5,700 per vehicle each year, and he estimated a total savings for the department of $9.5 million each year based on the current fleet size.
The use of hybrid vehicles will decrease time spent filling up the gas tank and increase time out on the roads protecting the community. Because of the long time that police vehicles sit idle, the vehicle can draw power from the battery rather than burning fuel. That’s welcome news to the city, said Emanuel, and should impact the bottom line of the many departments across the country which use the Escort SUV.
“We have more than 50 percent market saturation in police utility vehicles,” said Lee Newcombe, brand manager for the Explorer line.
Since the Interceptor hybrid has not hit the market yet, there are no police departments currently using it. However, based on Ford’s strong presence, Newcome is bullish on the prospect of the Escort line being the dominant force in police vehicles across the country, and he predicts that the transition to the Interceptor hybrid will mean many more hybrid vehicles on Chicago’s roads in the future.
“I would expect 70 to 80 percent of the 200 (on order by the city) would be the hybrid model,” he said.