Aspen cops choose hybrids |

Aspen cops choose hybrids

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” In an effort to set a green example in Colorado, Aspen cops are going hybrid.

Following a two-month test of a Toyota Highlander hybrid as a police cruiser in Aspen, Police Chief Richard Pryor on Thursday announced plans to replace the department’s Volvo cruisers with 10 of the new hybrid vehicles.

The new fleet, costing $35,000 each with an additional $4,000 to $6,000 for police outfitting, will arrive in Aspen over the next five months, Pryor said at a press conference on the lawn behind the Pitkin County Courthouse.

Converting to hybrids, Pryor said, is the next “radical yet logical step” in the face of concerns over global warming and skyrocketing gas prices.

The move will not only spare the environment an estimated 20 tons of carbon emissions, Pryor said, but the new vehicles save 2,000 gallons of gas (or about $7,000 in fuel) annually.

The Highlander gets 26 miles to the gallon according to Toyota statistics, but loaded with police equipment posted between 16 and 19 miles to the gallon in Aspen (compared with the current Volvo cruiser’s 11 miles to the gallon).

Aspen borrowed the idea for the new hybrids from police in Lindsay, Calif., and the City Council approved the pilot program in March.

“We’re at the leading edge in trying to do this,” said Mayor Mick Ireland during Thursday’s press conference.

Ireland said Aspen has lost skier days in recent years because of rising temperatures, and that local rivers, though gushing this year thanks to big winter snows, are dangerously low.

The mayor added that new police hybrids are only one piece in a larger effort to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. City initiatives include new hydroelectric plants and a possible conversion to geothermal energy to make Aspen a regional leader in green initiatives.

Kim Peterson, director of the city’s Canary Initiative, congratulated the police department on the move and said it goes a long way to the city’s goal of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The new police hybrids add to the city employee fleet of 13 other hybrid vehicles, Peterson said, a push that is more than just a PR campaign or “greenwashing,” but produces results on the ground.

“People look to Aspen as a leader,” Peterson said. “We like to start trends.”

During a two-month test of a Highlander hybrid, officers ran into trouble with the test vehicle’s electrical system, and the battery went dead six times, Pryor said.

Police enlisted the help of staff at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental nonprofit, who were able to beef up the hybrid vehicle’s electrical system, installing an extra battery to run the cruiser’s laptop, radar gun and video camera.

After the change, the hybrid performed well in Aspen’s “challenging environment,” Pryor said.

“I love the car,” said Assistant Chief Bill Linn, one of a handful of Aspen officers who tested the new hybrid cruiser.

Linn said the Highlander is agile, has good acceleration and can pull tighter turns than the department’s older Volvos.

The Highlander, which alternates between a V6 engine and an electric motor, runs quietly ” which is also a boon to cops on patrol sneaking through Aspen’s alleys, according to other officers who tested it.

Police vehicles in Aspen burn up an average of 25,000 miles of road every two years, Pryor said, and the new hybrids should last about five years.

The old Volvos will be phased out through a buy-back program with Volvo, Pryor said.

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