Public Safety Adds Four Hybrids to Its Fleet

News Story: August 1, 2010
With the new hybrid fleet are Director of Public Safety Jack Fernandez and Public Safety Officers Dave Stevens, Bing Benson, John Kichinko and Scott Lupo.

While the shiny new Ford Fusions in the Sacred Heart University fleet are gleaming white, they are “green” through and through. The four cruisers in the Public Safety fleet are hybrid vehicles – meaning they run on a traditional combustion engine in partnership with an electric battery. As a result, the gases emitted by the new hybrid are significantly reduced from the former fleet vehicles.

Earlier this year, senior officials at the University authorized Public Safety to explore the best options for replacing a number of existing vehicles, taking into consideration such elements as cost, efficiency and sustainability. Today, they anticipate the new cars will save many thousands of dollars over their expected lifespan while making a small but very real contribution to a greener, healthier planet.

The new Fusions, in service here since mid-July, replace four older vehicles: three Ford Explorers and a Chevrolet Impala. The four-cylinder cruisers can easily reach highway speeds and beyond, and they were retrofitted with literally all the bells and whistles needed for campus security work.

Officer Bing Benson demonstrates use of the hand-held command center.

According to Public Safety Officer Bing Benson, the Fusion has not typically been used for security work of this kind, so equipment had to be created specifically for this vehicle. The result? A hand-held command center that is actually less expensive to install and maintain since controls for such accessories as lights, sirens and the public address system don’t require tearing the car apart to mount them. The hand-held controls are much more “user-friendly” for the officer at the wheel as well. All the extensive equipment, by the way – including the air conditioning – is designed to work off the battery, so that the engine is taxed as little as possible. And the battery is constantly in the process of recharging itself.

The hybrid technology in each Fusion includes a $5,000 battery in the trunk that does a tag-team routine with the standard engine – switching effortlessly between the two modes for the best performance and cost-efficiency. The bottom line is obvious and immediate: the gauges on the dashboard will often indicate that the car is getting 40-to-50 miles per gallon, and Officer Benson estimates that the new cars saved $400-$500 in their first month’s fuel bills alone. Multiply that over years of service and the savings are very considerable.

This is not the only way the University is saving money with the new cruisers. Donna Stern of the SHU Business Office had opened a fleet purchase account with Ford to take advantage of pricing incentives for multiple vehicle purchases by the University community. The cost of a single Ford Fusion Hybrid in the new fleet account was $2,000 less than the previously used Explorer model used by Public Safety.

Officer Scott Lupo indicated that operating a hybrid takes a bit of getting used to. “When you start the car, you don’t feel it ‘start.’ It’s just “on.” And the engine switches on and off with the battery as you’re going along, so you’re often not aware of how the car is being powered at any given time. And the battery operation is silent.”

Public Safety Director Jack Fernandez stated that the University will be conducting operational testing of the new vehicles in comparison with other existing vehicles in various weather conditions over the next year. Public Safety also purchased a computer program to track all vehicle fuel and maintenance for future cost-benefit analysis.

Bing Benson explained that all the 40+ officers in the University’s Public Safety division have been trained in using the vehicles, which perform campus patrols and are used for such tasks as bank runs, safety checks in the area neighborhoods where SHU students live, and patrolling campus activities such as athletic matches and student events. In total, each fleet car puts on as many as 15,000 miles per year, so fuel efficiency – coupled with the University’s growing commitment to “go green” – makes these high-tech new vehicles a winning proposition from every angle.