When firemen discuss the custom-built special-purpose-designed fire apparatus parked in their engine company's bay, no one really thinks anything of it. Of course it's custom built. Of course it's specially designed - that's simply how it's been ever since fire engines started being built. Now, if you had that same conversation about your police patrol vehicle people might pay a bit more attention, and for good reason: This is a new concept in law enforcement, and one that's been a long time coming.
Enter Carbon Motors Corp. and the E7, a vehicle Carbon touts as “the world's first purpose-built police car.” As a veteran police officer, when I saw the E7 on the floor at IACP a few months ago, my first thought was, “What the heck is that?!” Later, as I did the research and sat down to write this, I realized that due to space restrictions for this piece, I can't do full justice to the vehicle. As we examine the E7, please keep in mind that there are other design features that increase its value to the patrol officer that we aren't able to fit.
Those of us who have been around long enough to remember the boxy old Crown Victorias or, even better, the Dodge Diplomats, know that patrol vehicles have already come a long way. Gone are the days of a box on wheels with slow-turning gumball lights on the top. Vehicles are far more streamlined today, but for patrol vehicles - unless the agency has gone slick top - all lights are still added after manufacture. Even for agencies that are running slick-top patrol vehicles, the lights are either hidden strobes in the various lights or they are lights or light sticks added into the passenger compartment facing both front and rear.
Adding equipment has always presented a challenge because, 1) it adds cost (cars are often a moving target and therefore hard to budget), or 2) achieving cost-effective 360-degree visibility was a challenge at best. Once again I say: Enter the Carbon Motors E7.
Powered by a forced induction 3.0 liter diesel motor, the E7 runs on either Ultra-Low Sulfur (ULS) diesel or biodiesel fuel. Using either of those fuels, the E7's motor and six-speed transmission provide 300 horse power and 420 foot-pounds of torque. With an 18-gallon fuel tank, the E7 delivers that performance while maintaining an estimated fuel efficiency of between 28 to 30 miles per gallon. The vehicle reportedly accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and will turn a 14.5-second quarter mile, topping out at 98 mph. Top speed is rated at 155 mph (and who really needs to go any faster than that?).
That's all the power information; but where this vehicle really shines is in its design customization. The E7 has fully integrated emergency lights that offer 360-degree visibility at various height levels. Along the roof line is a full ring of emergency lights augmented to the rear by a directional light stick. In the front, below grill level at the corners, are more lights. In the back at trunk level are even more. And just for those of us who feel incomplete without it, there is a dashboard level light and one bottom center of the windshield as well.
Now, we all know that we don't just use light to be seen. Sometimes we use light to help us see and to limit what the potential bad guys see of us. For that purpose, Carbon Motors made sure it included integrated take-down and spotlights as well.
While those lights provide police with some measure of safety, the E7 has other features that protect more directly. Integrated into the dash panel and front doors is ballistic protection rated at NIJ Level IIIA or better; it's always good to know the car will help stop incoming rounds. And since officers meet incoming rounds with outgoing rounds, the E7 also has (or can have) integrated shotgun mounts. There's no doubt in my mind that as the law enforcement community increases the number of patrol rifles or carbines carried, the weapon locks in the E7 will evolve to accommodate the need.
Another design feature that plays to officer's needs is the cockpit's fully integrated, factory-fitted law enforcement equipment. Think about how much stuff you have beside you in your cruiser. At a minimum, the average patrol vehicle today has a laptop computer, light/siren control box and radio. There is also frequently a video-camera system with one or more cameras, a town radio (separate from police bands), a citizen's band radio, a scanner, auxiliary 12V outlets and a cup holder. Plenty of officers I know also have some kind of organizer, or portable desk, to help manage all the paperwork. Thankfully, with more laptops in patrol vehicles and the digitization of reports that accompanies those computers, the amount of paperwork we have to carry and generate is being reduced - slowly.
For those of you who truly enjoy the technological aspect of a new vehicle, the E7 also sports:
- Heads-up display
- Reverse backup camera
- Remote start capability
- Driver specific “intelligent” key
- Automatic license plate recognition system
- Forward Looking Infrared System (FLIR)
Since much of what we do results in putting bad guys in handcuffs and into the backseat, the E7 is equipped with coach rear doors that open opposite the normal direction. These doors allow a greater space to get suspects in and out of the vehicle. That (potentially) means fewer injuries to those suspects who buck at the wrong time as they're going into the backseat.
Since the good folks at Carbon Motors recognize the primary purpose of the police cruiser's backseat, they designed a partition that separates the front and rear passenger compartments. Carbon also realizes that suspects sometimes do unappealing things in our backseats, thus it was designed so patrol officers can hose it out if necessary. The only gaps in the backseat are thin slots where the seatbelts go in and out; that means there's no place for suspects to hide anything we might miss (yes, we miss things sometimes) during a search prior to transport.
So, let's quickly recap: Integrated lighting, officer safety protections, super cool integrated technology, a space custom-designed to make our prisoners safe and comfortable, and better mileage than the competition. The only thing not specified is pricing, but if they can keep that within competitive limits, I'd say Carbon Motors has a winner on its hands.
Retired Lt. Frank Borelli is the editor-in-chief for Officer.com. Pulling on his seven years of military service and more than 20 years of police experience, he stays active in police work, training and writing.