UHPD acquires two new
By Andrew Fritsch
The Daily Cougar
The UH police department has two new neighbors.
Two new Ford Think Neighbors, actually.
UHPD recently purchased the electric cars
because it was in desperate need of new vehicles, Chief Robert Wilson said.
"The average mileage on our vehicles is
62,000," Wilson said. "Some have 90 to 100,000 miles on them, and we just
update our fleet."
The cars are part of a new line of Ford
vehicles designed to produce zero emissions and work solely off electricity,
said Jeff Kuhl, a
Ford sales representative who dropped
off a repaired Neighbor.
"We hope that buying the cars conveys the
message that we need to have cleaner air," Wilson said. "Using the electric
cars may not
make a huge difference in the end, but
at least we're showing that we need to be responsible."
Think Neighbors are street legal on any
road with a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour. The vehicles have
all the basic
accoutrements of a regular car — turn
signals, rear-view mirrors, hazard signals, a trunk, etc. The suspension
is similar to that of a
sports car, Kuhl said.
A 300-watt, four-horsepower electric engine
propels the 1,000-pound Neighbor at a top speed of 25 mph. They can travel
30 miles or
run for eight to 10 hours on a single
charge, Kuhl said.
"These cars have regenerative braking,
which means the heat and energy produced by the brakes recharge the battery
while the car
is still in use," Kuhl said.
Wilson said purchasing two Neighbors ($7,000
each) for less than the price of one regular car was a major benefit. The
paid for through the UH police department's
maintenance and operations fund, Wilson said.
"Cougar Patrol had safety issues because
they are unarmed students in uniform driving cars that read 'Police,' but
they're really not
officers, so if someone who had ill will
toward police saw them, it could have been a bad situation," Wilson said.
"Also, they (Cougar Patrol) will be more
approachable in a vehicle that doesn't have flashing lights on it," Wilson
The new electric cars will be identified
with side decals that read UH Security, Wilson said.
"I first saw the cars being used at Rice
during football games, and I thought they were a good idea," Wilson said.
The Neighbors will be used for campus patrol,
escorts and various other activities that call for a vehicle, Wilson said.
"Obviously, these will never replace cars
because you can't transport a prisoner in them, and they're slow, so we
couldn't stop traffic
violators or respond fast enough to a
crime in progress," Wilson said.
"They're better for campus because they're
quieter and less distracting, and they can get to places a regular car
can't," Wilson said.
Cougar Patrol will be the primary users
of the new electric cars, Wilson said.
"I like them because I can go throughout
campus, and I have more range than an officer," Brittany Williams, a junior
who became a member of Cougar Patrol in
February 2001, said.
"The cars have the potential to make campus
safer," Williams said.
If the electric cars work out well, Wilson
said maybe four more will be added.