Carbon Motors Plans Purpose-Built Police Car
By Chris Haak
Carbon Motors, an Atlanta-based police car manufacturer, revealed a prototype of its purpose-built police car to several law enforcement agencies in the Detroit area. The market for police cars is pretty much sewn up right now by the Ford Crown Victoria, with a few sales going to both the Dodge Charger and Chevrolet Impala. However, with the Crown Victoria slated to cease production in the next few years, and police departments generally not preferring the Charger and Impala for various reasons (generally, they either aren’t as spacious inside as a Crown Vic, or in the case of the Impala, are front wheel drive, so have the inherent handling disadvantage that a rear-driver doesn’t).
Building its E7 police car from scratch (E7 is only the working name at this point) gives Carbon several advantages over the customization model currently in force. According to the company, police agencies generally buy their current cars for about $25,000, then add up to $55,000 in aftermarket equipment, such as computers, radios, light bars, and other equipment. The Carbon Motors police car, however, has integrated police lights (incorporated into the roof, bumpers, fenders, and elsewhere) so the parachute-like traditional light bar that sacrifices both fuel consumption and top speed is unnecessary. The interior is also optimized for police work, with most – if not all – of the aforementioned $55,000 in aftermarket equipment already built into the car. For example, rather than taking up most of the front seat not occupied by the driver with a dash-mounted full-size laptop computer, the computer is integrated cleanly into the center stack. Ballistic protection of certain areas of the car is available as a factory option.
One interesting aspect of Carbon’s business model, aside from the soup-to-nuts police car building process (rather than outsourcing the parts generally applied by the aftermarket) is that the company has a recycling program in place for cars that are at the end of their life cycle (designed to be 250,000 miles). Basically, Carbon Motors buys back old cars and decommissions them so that they are never used as anything other than law enforcement vehicles. If the company is able to capture significant market share in the police vehicle market (which should be do-able if the production vehicle does what they say it will do, and its price is reasonable), this could make it very difficult for unsavory elements to get their hands on the vehicles to impersonate police officers.
The E7 itself is a fairly attractive vehicle, particularly the front and rear end, with aggressively-shaped headlights and taillights and integrated push bars front and rear. The profile, however, is oddly conventional-looking, and doesn’t seem to mesh well with the design on the ends of the car. In terms of profile, however, the only departure is the suicide-style rear doors (which the company refers to as “coach doors” instead). The rear-hinged rear doors are used for easier suspect “insertion and removal.” There are many other interior and exterior features that I wouldn’t even think of if I were designing a police car, but that’s because the company consulted with over 800 police departments to get their input into how they used their cars and what they’d like to see in a police car designed on a clean sheet of paper.
The Carbon E7 is built on a rear wheel drive chassis that features an aluminum space frame, and is powered by a 3.0 liter 300-horsepower, 420 lb-ft diesel, coupled to a six-speed automatic. The diesel should provide more than enough grunt, as well as significantly better fuel economy. In fact, Carbon estimates that its vehicle will have faster acceleration than even the 5.7 liter Hemi-powered Charger, and will get between 28 and 30 mpg combined fuel economy, compared with 18 mpg in the Crown Victoria.
If Carbon Motors meets their objectives and launches the car to law enforcement agencies in 2012, the ergonomic and space efficiency, performance, fuel economy, and integration should make the car a strong contender to capture a huge portion of the market share of the 75,000 vehicle per year police vehicle segment. A side benefit to motorists is that it will no longer be necessary to slow down every time you approach a Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis piloted by an octogenarian from behind, fearing that it’s an unmarked police cruiser. On the other hand, you’ll know in an instant when you see a Carbon E7 that it’s a police car, and it means business.
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