toyota cars

Toyota Prius squad car uses

by Glenn W. Arlt

See review here / first generation here / See main Prius page here

On a recent stream of conversation relating to how Ford has sent some Mercury Mariner hybrid SUVs kitted up as police cars to the Cleveland area as a demonstration, it occurred to me (and I wrote about) the possibility of using the Prius as a real police vehicle. In fact, one of the other bloggers (who obviously has encyclopedic knowledge of how to get an amazing number of facts and figures out of the internet) determined that the Prius (made in Japan) was generally within an inch to quarter inch in most internal dimensions compared to the two most popular police cars used in the US. Look for yourself, with thanks to Joseph Willemsen for some of the raw data, some of which I corrected (notably the combined horsepower of the Prius which is not, in fact, the simple addition of 67 horsepower of the electric motors and 76 horsepower of the Atkinson cycle engine).

Here are some apparently unfair comparisons between the two most popular police vehicles, and the Toyota Prius hybrid. All have 5 seats. All have about 16 cubic feet of luggage area. (The webmaster threw in the Dodge Charger V6 since this is likely to become popular as a squad car. The Charger Hemi is likely to be used for special purposes - state police pursuits - but probably won't be used much in towns and cities.)

Criterion Ford Police Interceptor
(3.27 gear ratio)
Toyota Prius Hybrid Chevrolet Impala Dodge Charger V6
Front leg room 42.5 41.9 42.2 41.8
Rear leg room 39.6 38.6 38.4 40.2
Head room, front/rear 39.3/37.9 39.1/37.1 39.2/36.8 38.7/36.2
Peak torque (acceleration/hill climbing force) 275 335 (combined gas-electric) 200 250
Peak horsepower (acceleration/top speed) 235 110 (combined) 200 250
Braking 60-0 (Michigan State Police) 143 (civvie, 155) 125 142 (civvie, 149) 130
0-40 (Internet) 4.7 4.9 4.7  
0-60 (Internet) 8.8 9.8 9.2 8.9
0-60 (Michigan State Police) 8.9 n/a 8.8 8.9
Quarter mile (Internet) 16.7/86 mph 17.0/81 mph 17.0/84 mph  
EPA standard mileage 17/25 60/51 19/27 19/27
EPA combined mileage 18 55 23 24
Probable real world MPG in police use including idling time (Glenn figures) 10 35 12  
Actual top speed (Michigan State Police) 120 106 (Not MSP) 142 135

If you're thinking “what a joke,” look again at the performance figures above. Also - to put it bluntly — can a perp outrun Motorola (police radio)?  Consider also the Prius’ supposed weak-spot in the comparison - top speed - most "police chases" and "police responses" rarely, if ever, get above 106 mph in the real world, I believe you'll find, and in fact, in many jurisdictions, police chases are no longer allowed or heavily restricted for public safety reasons.

A Prius may be had with vehicle stability control and side airbags and all have traction control and electronic brake assistance. My point? Extra safety for our police officers while in a police Prius. Vehicle stability control apparently cuts single-car accidents by 80% (i.e. it's harder to slide off the road in the winter time or in the wet). The Prius is front-wheel-drive just as the Chevrolet Impala is. This has obvious advantages in snow areas.

I'm certain that just as GM or Ford do, Toyota would be able to build police-specification Prius cars to-order including steel wheels, police spec tires, absence of center console (to make room for a shotgun and room in the front seat area for side-arms), wiring for police radio/siren/beacons, specific exterior colors, vinyl rear seats and floor covering, front/rear compartment barriers, disconnected rear inside door handles, and so forth. Toyota may also be well advised to adopt the rear disc brakes and suspension of the European specification Prius for US police use. I emailed Toyota (as well as my state senator) with my ideas, I might add. After all, it’s OUR tax money that the police are blowing away by driving massive V8 police units, isn’t it? Perhaps you the reader could write to your state senator and representative with a similar proposal if you think cutting fuel expenses in by 2/3rds is a noble idea for our police forces.

[Note: several departments, including the Teaneck police, have considered Prius test cars. Write to us if you know of any actual purchases.]

Where are the police cars built? All three American squad cars are made in Canada. The Prius is made in Japan.

Already, taxi drivers (known to be the hardest use of a vehicle alongside police use) are starting to adapt the Prius to their specific needs successfully — apparently, in Canada, some taxi drivers are indicating virtually no breakdowns over a quarter a million miles before trading for their next Prius — absolutely unheard of in “conventional” taxis.

Is it time for you to consider buying a vehicle, such as a Prius, which can take care of 95% of your needs rather than some massive oversized gas-hog of a vehicle which you might have considered buying to take care of 99% of your wants? For those times when you must cart something large home, for example, why not have it delivered? Why haul around a ton of extra vehicle for the occasional desire to carry something bulky? Isn't it time to look around you and realize that one person commuting in a 5000 pound SUV or truck or minivan or car, getting 15 or 20 miles per gallon, is a wasteful luxury that we not only can no longer afford, but that it is simply causing harm to the future of ourselves, our children, grandchildren and all future generations? It’s not a case of some enviro-nutcase saying “we should all be eating celery and saving the rain forest” — it’s just plain good stewardship of the earth which must support us all. A Prius is just good, common sense updated for the reality of our times. That's another reason it's such a fantastic vehicle.

Also by Glenn Arlt: long-term Prius review and color tour

[Webmaster commentary: There are two major blows against the Prius for police use. First, American squad cars are almost invariably rear drive because front wheel drive can be more easily damaged in some common accidents, and because police are trained on and used to rear drive. That's one reason why the Intrepid and Impala police cars never really went anywhere; well, the Impala is very slowly breaking into some departments. Perhaps more important, the Prius would have to do well on the road course with cornering. We hope Glenn can provide some details on the European squad version, and hope Toyota will provide a Prius for Michigan State Police testing next summer. Certainly the Prius performs well against the considerably more expensive Charger V6, Crown Victoria, and Impala as a civilian vehicle and taxi!]