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Flybrian

Clearwater police quietly introduce hybrid sedans

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By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published November 7, 2005

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CLEARWATER - When the police chief rolled onto a burglary scene in a car resembling a white cocoon, no one recognized him. Not the crooks.

Not even the cops.

As governments search for ways to appear "green friendly" while potentially saving money for taxpayers, many are turning to hybrid vehicles that consume less fuel.

Police Chief Sid Klein caught everyone off guard by driving his white Toyota Prius to the scene of a break-in last year.

"I thought I could sneak up on them with my specialized electric vehicle," Klein said then.

Now Clearwater will add six more hybrid sedans to the three it already owns, at a cost of $20,700 each. The new cars, all Toyota Priuses, will be split between the city departments, though the majority are earmarked for the police.

The hybrid cars, which run using both a standard combustion engine and battery power, will not replace the standard police cruisers, said Deputy Chief Bill Baird. They'll be used by detectives and for administrative duties.

During the yearlong tests in which Klein participated, Clearwater's hybrid Toyotas averaged between 40 and 58 miles per gallon. A standard Ford Taurus gets about 15 miles per gallon, according to the city.

That means over 75,000 miles, according to the city's estimates, a hybrid could save $8,000 in gasoline costs - enough to offset the extra $6,000 to buy the car.

Be it in government or garages, hybrids are becoming cool.

Nationally, sales have nearly quadrupled in two years, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Toyota has sold 90,981 Priuses so far in 2005, more than all hybrid sales in 2004 (83,153).

The Prius, which can get up to 60 miles per gallon, has become the flagship for the eco-friendly. It stays on a dealer lot for an average of three hours, and there's an "obscene waiting list" to get one, said Chris Wilson, the government fleet sales manager at the Alan Jay Automotive Network in Sebring.

"It screams out, "I am for the environment,"' Wilson said. "People drive what they want to be."

You can imagine then, that the politically correct segment of Hollywood has embraced its pod-shaped design. Orlando Bloom, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Williams, and Cameron Diaz are among its happy owners. Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart drove a Prius to the Oscars.

"When I see people driving around in big SUVs or Hummers in L.A., I just think it's ridiculous," actor Michael Keaton, a Prius owner, recently told the Times of London. "I mean, how heavy can your kids be?"

Hybrid is the new "it" thing.

There are seven in Philadelphia's 6,000-vehicle fleet, but council members are itching for more, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

Yosemite National Park has run a fleet of General Motors hybrid buses since April.

Inspectors for Hillsborough County's Environmental Protection Division make their rounds in county-owned hybrids.

St. Petersburg already has two hybrid SUVs it's testing.

"We want to care. We want to do the right thing," said Bob Turner, St. Petersburg director of fleet management.

Three Tampa HARTline buses run on a mix of gasoline and electric power.

Ed Crawford, the agency's government affairs officer, said the buses accelerate faster, provide a quieter ride, and get better gas mileage. The hybrid buses cost about $490,000 each, 50 percent more than a regular 40-foot bus, Crawford said. In HARTline's case, the cost difference was offset by federal grants.

Clearwater officials believe they can save $2,000 for each sedan replaced with a hybrid. The city hopes to replace its entire 200-car sedan fleet, excluding police and fire cruisers, within 10 years, said Rick Carnley, General Services Department assistant director. The new cars are expected to arrive in January.

Carnley is also exploring new model hybrid pickups.

"I would love nothing better than to be able to switch them all to hybrids," Carnley said.


I have seen a few of these. First, I dismissed them as random Priuses having those ugly yellow anti-abortion vanity plates, but I guess they really were city vehicles. This was confirmed when I saw two Priuses with city tags at a police standoff Sunday night.
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My partner and I are looking to buy a condo over the next several months. There is a new tower being proposed in downtown Toronto, and they are offering a fleet of Priuses, available exclusively for rental to the new residents of the tower. I flatly told the sales staff that we would not be buying in this building because I don't want to be seen supporting Toyota. The entire building looks like one giant advertisement for Toyota. There were posters of the Prius and the big ugly T everywhere. All I can say, is that for right or for wrong, GM has dropped the ball on this one. Toyota is getting such a free ride on this little electric shopping cart. Sure, GM takes the high roads with its hybrid buses, but Toyota is winning the PR war, for sure!
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City government services should definately invest in hybrids, no matter who makes them. Hybrids work best in cities when the speed limit is rarely above 35MPH and in traffic the cars just sit there. My university in Philly has a fleet of previous-gen Prius' and Escapes for security duty. A great idea, if you ask me. BTW, I went to a GMC dealer and asked about purchasing a hybrid bus and the salesman just looked at me. Long story short, I didn't drive one home because they aren't available to the general public. :huh: ^_^ :P
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Speaking of the hybrid buses, does anyone know the difference in cost between one and a regular diesel-powered bus? I'm kind of curious about it.
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Well, I consider myself somewhat of a bus expert.... First of all, GM does not make the buses, GM makes the Allison Drive System that propels the bus. A standard diesel bus will low bid around 275,000 dollars and last time I heard, a hybrid bus would run around 350,000 to 400,000 per bus..... now these prices are for orders of 10s of buses, and if you want to buy just one, it would most likely be a lot more expensive.
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It seems not a week goes by without 2 or 3 articles on this same tired subject. F'ing ponderous. What I want to know is: all these movie stars & personalies, all very wealthy naturally; surely they don't own JUST a prius. If they're going to play the 'green' card, we need to know what else is in their garages if their blither is to have any meaning. Don't tell me Keaton doesn't own a 10-MPG ferrari, or hasn't at some point.
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It seems not a week goes by without 2 or 3 articles on this same tired subject. F'ing ponderous.

What I want to know is: all these movie stars & personalies, all very wealthy naturally; surely they don't own JUST a prius. If they're going to play the 'green' card, we need to know what else is in their garages if their blither is to have any meaning. Don't tell me Keaton doesn't own a 10-MPG ferrari, or hasn't at some point.

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Yup, when going wine tastig or out to a Five star Restaurant they drive the 6.0 liter twin turbo Bentley, but to a big Hollywood evet they show up in a POS Toyota Prius. :rolleyes:
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