The world's first "purpose-built" police cars will roll out in style in 2012, sporting BMW engines and transmissions, along with LED lighting, automatic license plate recognition, tire pressure monitoring and a multitude of other state-of-the-art technologies.
Carbon Motors Corp., maker of the Carbon E7 police cars, announced last month that it will team with BMW Group to incorporate advanced 250-hp diesel engines, cooling, exhaust gas systems and automatic transmissions. The announcement represents another step forward for Carbon Motors, which has already allied itself with such major suppliers as Lear Corp., Lotus Engineering, Dassault Systèmes, BASF, Autoliv, Durr Systems, Transense Technologies, Federal Signal, Snap-On and a host of other big names.
The alliance with BMW also serves as a boost for the law enforcement community, which is growing increasingly aware of — and anxious for — the highly publicized E7. The start-up company says it already has booked 12,000 reservations for vehicles, despite the fact that the first cars won't roll out for two more years.
"We asked 3,500 law enforcement professionals from all 50 states a simple question: "What do you want, need and desire in a vehicle?'" says William Santana Li, chairman and CEO of Carbon Motors. "And they helped us come up with just over 100 key requirements. This vehicle is designed from the ground up, bumper to bumper, by cops, for cops."
Engineered by a team of automotive veterans under the direction of former Texas police officer Stacy Dean Stephens, the E7 reportedly is the first vehicle to be designed from scratch as a police car. Up to now, police vehicles have typically been bought from dealerships as retail passenger cars, endowed with specialized "police packages" by manufacturers, then outfitted with lights, sirens, partitions, gun mounts and numerous other aftermarket devices.
When Carbon Motors launched its company seven years ago, however, its founders wanted to change that methodology. They planned for the E7 to be "purpose-built" with the latest in "presence awareness" LED technology and CAD-designed operator comforts. They also foresaw it being entirely engineered and designed using CAD technology. CAD design software will help create an ergonomically sound cockpit. The company's engineers are also working with Lear Corp. on specialized seats "designed for large people carrying lots of equipment."
By also employing the same L3 Communications intelligence and surveillance electronics currently found in modern military aircraft, the E7 will also boast a state-of-the-art modern human-machine interface. "All important readouts will be readily visible on the vehicle's HUD (heads up display) system so that the officer's eyes never have to leave the road," says Trevor J. Rudderham, vice president and chief development officer for the E7.
Making police vehicles more functional is a mission for the company, which is why it's working with Federal Signal Corp. on the development of an automatic license plate monitoring system. By employing such technology, Carbon Motors hopes to make the already harrowing job of a police professional more doable. "Imagine an officer talking and having to punch in a license plate number at the same time," Li says. "We're going to have cameras all around the vehicle, capable of automatically scanning 1,500 license plates per minute, so they don't have to worry about doing it themselves."
Safety has also been a major focus in the construction of the company's concept demonstration vehicle. All potential protocol scenarios have been deeply explored to prepare the car for any police-related task. Examples of overall improvements can be seen throughout the design, from the "hose-off-clean plastic" rear compartment, conveniently located shotgun holsters and seats that will comfortably enable officers to drive fully equipped with side arms.
The car's aluminum space frame is also responsible for a number of positive attributes from weight savings and durability to reduction of initial investment. Though traditionally a feature reserved by professional race teams, aluminum frames are increasingly being employed by high-volume automakers, including Ferrari, Jaguar and Lotus (who had a hand in the E7's design). "While these automakers use aluminum frames mostly for weight savings, we have gone so far as to use them to eliminate maintenance, production and environmental costs," Rudderham says. Moreover, the E7's frame does not require paint. Carbon Motors anodizes its aluminum so corrosion is not an issue. By not requiring paint there are tremendous reductions in CO2 emissions during the manufacturing phase.
The E7 has many other "green construction" features, including use of woven, thermoplastic composites, which provide rigidity for body paneling and lower replacement costs. In another effort to reduce department costs, Carbon Motors will stock replacement panels, which will be sold with individual department vehicle graphics already installed. "Our panels can easily be replaced by agencies due to our use of simple fasteners and safe automotive adhesives," Rudderham says.
TOMAR Electronics Inc. was responsible for the 600 high-intensity LED lights built into the body paneling of the E7, but Rudderham says that number will be significantly reduced in the production version with virtually no loss in lighting output. This multitude of LEDs was required to assure full vehicle visibility when activated. The 600 LED lights are divided into 24 flush-mounted groupings.
"All too often, officers become victims of inattentive drivers while undergoing routine traffic stops," Stephens says. "By providing lighting in all 360 degrees around the vehicle, we are hoping to drastically reduce these deadly accidents." The lighting is also effective in providing a more noticeable police presence, which research by FSU law professor Jonathan Klick, and several others, has proven to reduce criminal activity. Officers will also have use of a 130 to 350 Hz bass siren to alert the public of their arrival.
Carbon Motors says the BMW powertrain will have a significant effect on fuel efficiency. According to the company's estimates, the U.S. law enforcement fleet currently consumes about 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline and emits approximately 14 million tons of CO2 annually. The company claims it can reduce those figures by 40 percent.
Carbon Motors' ongoing Pure Justice Tour, which has already made stops in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix and numerous other cities, is enabling the company's engineers to evaluate and refine the E7. It's also given Carbon Motors a chance to showcase the vehicle for law enforcement officials, thus making its case for the concept.
"Detroit won't make a purpose-built police car," says Li, whose company is headquartered in Connersville, IN. "Hospitals, fire departments, military fleets and garbage men all have them. But eight years after 9/11, this country's first responders still don't have them. We want to change that."
Senior Technical Editor Charles J. Murray contributing to this story.