The Vilas County Sheriff’s Department shared its proposed budget for 2020 at the Vilas County Board Law Enforcement and Emergency Management Committee’s attention at its meeting July 22.
It was at this meeting the department also shared its intent to purchas eight new squad cars to add to its fleet next year.
“I think we talked about this, where Ford was going to be redesigning their squad cars,” Vilas County sheriff Joe Fath said. “So, the actual price for a 2020 Police Interceptor on a state bid is $37,020.”
According to Fath, Ford introduced a hybrid police package squad car which could potentially have significant savings in fuel over the year due to how the lithium-ion hybrid battery preserves energy while considering the unique idling demands of day-to-day police use.
“You know, when cars are idling, which a lot of our time in our squad cars is spent idling,” Fath said. “There’s a possibility of saving up to $2,000 or $2,5000 a year.”
“So, tell me about the car, first,” committee chair Jerry Burkett said. “Is it a car, or an SUV? What is it?”
“It’s an Explorer,” Vilas County sheriff’s lieutenant Jeff Schaub said. “They took the 2019, redesigned it, and now their standard motor is the hybrid motor.”
Schaub said the current motors averaged roughly 17 miles per gallon, whereas the new hybrid motors would average 24 miles per gallon.
“While some of the vehicles had the stop-start set in them, like the Dodge Durangos, we stop at a stoplight and it’ll shut off, then turn itself back on,” Schaub said. “These Explorers are actually set up because there’s such high idle time on squad cars, they will shut off at idle. And then, when it needs electricity, it’ll turn itself back on.”
Burkett asked how that setting worked during the winter.
Schaub said he was still trying to contact Ford, as the question about how the vehicle would behave in extreme weather conditions had been brought up to him before.
“The only guess I have is, if it’s not integrated, there’s probably a button so it won’t shut off,” Schaub explained. “To override the system.”
Burkett said that would be what they needed.
Schaub was sure it had been thought of, and that the Durangos had a button which shut off the start-stop system so the vehicles wouldn’t automatically shut off on idle.
Schaub explained part of the reason squad cars idled so much was due to how much “draw” the vehicle had to accommodate its equipment.
According to the 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility’s informational site, the vehicle “reduces gas engine idle time by powering its electrical load using the lithium-ion hybrid battery,” which allows the engine to run less while being intermittently called upon regenerate the battery.
“At an accident scene, if we’re there for four or five hours, it’ll shut off and when it needs electricity, it turns back on. It just keeps doing that,” Schaub said.
Burkett asked if the Dodge also made a police package, as those vehicles had been cheaper in the past.
Schaub answered that they did, but he didn’t recommend it.
He also said it was important to keep in mind the current cars used roughly “.5 gallons an hour, idle” whereas the hybrid model used “.2.”
Burkett said he didn’t want a Dodge Durango if it wasn’t what the department wanted and the question of cost was bound to come up.
“It’s gonna start with the big guy in the finance office, work it’s way down to public property, and we’re gonna go before finance, begging for eight cars and they’re going to tell us we should have five,” Burkett said. “And that ‘why are you spending this amount of money, can’t you find a Volvo with a fifth wheel on it that we can get cheaper?’”
“Are all of those particular Explorers with a hybrid engine?” committee member Marv Anderson asked. “You can’t get them without the hybrid engine?”
Schaub said the vehicles were available without the hybrid engine.
Vehicles without the hybrid engine cost $33,905, which is $3,115 less than the cost of the hybrid engine.
“When we looked at the prices for cars, the one that we would like, we think, because we’re not doing propane, I think the hybrid, right now with the technology there, has the ability to save Vilas County money and be economically suited for our Northwoods,” Fath said. “The non-hybrid Ford is $237,335 for seven.”
According to Fath, the non-hybrids were the cheapest vehicles they had considered, with pursuit-rated pick-up trucks being the second cheapest at $239,323, and the Tahoes costing $244,734.
Anderson asked if the department, out of the “x-amount” of vehicles they asked for, could have only “one or two” being the hybrid so as to see if the engine worked for the department.
“If it doesn’t work, then you’re not out the other vehicles being messed up, if you will, or being in that category of ‘Ah, they don’t really work like we expected.’” Anderson said.
As for the savings the county could see by utilizing the hybrid engine, Schaub mentioned that a car that put 20,000 miles on it a year with five hours of idle time on it a day, it would save $3,500 a year per car.
“It’s not even $3,500 more extra if you want the hybrid originally,” Schaub said.
Anderson said that was a potential saving, depending on how the department used the vehicles.
‘We would like eight. Period.’
Fath anticipated having those meetings with the county finance manager, discussing the options, and altering the budget proposal “from there.”
Anderson asked if Fath could recall, within the last several years, how many vehicles the department had asked for in years past.
“We would like eight this coming year, but we can probably arm wrestle with him,” Fath said.
“We would like eight. Period,” Burkett stated.
“And what did we do last year?” Anderson asked.
“We have two extra officers,” Burkett said.
Fath said they had requested eight vehicles last year and the eight they were asking for next year “wasn’t an anomaly.”
According to Schaub, the technology in the new hybrids had started to be put into the 2005 Ford Escape.
“So, it’s not new technology with Ford,” Schaub said. “They’ve been running. I’m sure they’ve improved it dramatically since the start of it.”
Fath said the proposed budget had to be in by Aug. 1.
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected] com.