The Windsor Police Service in southwestern Ontario plans to purchase fully electric vehicles next year, but residents likely won’t notice them at first.
As early as April 2023, the service told CBC News, its goal is to start replacing older unmarked police vehicles, sometimes used for administrative purposes, with fully electric cars.
Those cars won’t be the cruisers seen on regular patrol. Right now, there aren’t any manufacturers that offer turnkey, fully electric police vehicles for front-line use.
In addition, there are concerns that need to be addressed before fully electric cruisers can be used for activities such as traffic enforcement, lengthy investigations or securing a crime scene. Acceleration capability and performance in extreme heat or cold all need to be looked at, said Barry Horrobin, director of planning and physical resources for Windsor police.
“I don’t know the answer to that. It may not make a big difference at all … there might be some kind of dip in performance,” said Horrobin.
“There should be very little fear once we commit to buying one, because all of our concerns will have been addressed by that point.”
Vehicle charging stations — both for public and police use — will be installed by March 2023 at the Windsor police downtown headquarters, the training facility in the west end and the collision reporting centre on Jefferson Avenue. It’s unclear how much the charging infrastructure will cost, as government grants may apply.
But making the switch any sooner wouldn’t be a “good business decision” because police would be reliant on other infrastructure to get a charge, said Horrobin.
High fuel prices impact emergency services budget
Record-breaking fuel prices didn’t prompt the change, Horrobin said, as they’ve been looking toward electrifying their fleet for a few years. But pump prices have them looking at electric vehicles “a tad more aggressively.”
“There are other reasons why electrification is important — environmental benefits of electric vehicles versus gas- powered vehicles and the fossil fuel issue. We are a public service provider. We have an ethical responsibility to the community to lead by example,” said Horrobin, referencing global warning and pollution levels.
Windsor police currently have 12 hybrid police vehicles, some of which are used by officers on patrol. Those are gas powered, however, the engine shuts off when idling, and that’s when the battery power kicks in.
It’s helped somewhat reduce fuel consumption, but the Windsor Police Service has noticed a monthly increase of roughly $16,000 due to the recent surge in gas prices.
For Essex-Windsor EMS, last year $60,000 per month in fuel was spent. So far this year, the organization’s average monthly gas cost is $80,000.
The Windsor Fire & Rescue Services wasn’t able to provide numbers to show how high fuel prices are affecting its budget.
City in Quebec testing its 1st fully electric police car
One police service in Canada that’s on the leading edge of putting fully electric front-line cruisers on the road is in Quebec.
The Service de police de la Ville de Repentigny (SPVR) is embarking on a pilot project and has purchased an all-electric emergency response car.
A Ford Mustang Mach-E is being retrofitted for police use with the help of Cyberkar, a company that specializes in technology for emergency vehicles.
“It will be tested in a real environment to assess battery performance and efficiency under different conditions of use, including situations that call for activating the flashing lights or swift acceleration,” the City of Repentigny said.
The project is spreading, as officials in Quebec noted a police department in New York order 184 Ford Mustang Mach-E’s while looking to the SPVR for expertise learned during its trial.
In Windsor, it’s likely years away before a fully electric vehicle will be involved in responding to an emergency call. But when it happens, Horrobin predicts there will be an internal policy on how low a charge can go before it needs to be topped up.
The service’s Strategic Fleet Plan shows the average lifecycle of a police vehicle is three to five years
Horrobin said the process in swapping out the old for the new is “very methodical” and happens regularly.
“The first electric vehicles that we bring in are going to replace the oldest gas-powered vehicles we were cycling out anyway.”