Monday, July 8, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 153


UHPD acquires two new electric vehicles

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 needed to
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 cars were
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 said.

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 Psychology major
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.

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