If you recognize the infamous headlight pattern of a Ford Crown Victoria in your rearview mirror, it could be anyone from a taxi, to your grandparents, to a policeman preparing to pull you over. That's because police cruisers have long been based on Ford's ubiquitous full-sized sedan, heavily modified to meet the needs of law enforcement. With Ford finally retiring the trusted "Crown Vic" in 2011
, an opportunity opened in the market for a truly purpose-built police car.
Carbon Motors Corporation was founded in 2003 on the dream of producing the perfect police car. The idea gained a lot of attention from investors and media alike, and Carbon Motors took the step of requesting a $310 million loan under the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. But, after years of working with the DOE on terms, the loan was denied
on March 7, 2012. Carbon Motors CEO William Santana Li blamed a "highly-charged, election year environment," for what he termed a "political decision."
Well before this, Carbon Motors' founders Stacy Dean Stephens and William Santana, a former police officer and former Ford exec, spent years dreaming up what the future would demand of police officers and their cars. They surveyed hundreds of law enforcement officials and even launched a council with over 1,200 enthusiastic police officers. The result of this research was the Carbon Motors E7, the first purpose-built police car. So what made it so special?
First, Carbon Motors claims that the E7 is different from traditional police cars in that its lifecycle is much longer. Compared to today's police cars that last up to 120,000 miles, the diesel-powered E7 was built to last 250,000 miles, thanks in part to a dependable 6-cylinder diesel motor that Carbon Motors sourced from BMW. Like the Crown Victoria, the E7 is rear wheel drive with power sent through an automatic transmission.
The E7's performance specs were never fully tested, but the company claims the car can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour time in about 6 and a half seconds, with a governed top speed of 155 miles per hour. The diesel motor is reported to put out 265 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque.
The convenience features and onboard equipment are where the E7 stands out most. Heated and cooled seats designed to accomodate a police officer's bulky utility belt begin the list of comfort features. In addition, there is a heads-up display, back up camera and remote start capability. The rear passenger compartment is more accesible due to a unique "coach door" design, and was made to be sprayed down with a hose incase anything messy happens back there.
Add automatic license plant recognition, 360-degree surveillance cameras, nightvision, rear passenger cameras, and a front FLIR infrared night camera system, and you have one high-tech police cruiser. In terms of safety, the E7 has everything from 75 mph rear-impact bumpers to optional bullet resistent panels.
ORCA, or On-board Rapid Command Architecture, is a vehicle information system integrated direct into the dashboard--similar to the touchscreen infotainment system
found on the Tesla Model S. This unit controls all the bells and whistles. By plugging into the OBDII port, ORCA can show if there are any problems with the car so they can easily be diagnosed and fixed.
Back in December, Carbon Motors announced they had received almost 25,000 reservations from 638 law enforcement agencies
. In addition, their announcement of the TX7 police van
showed they had more product flowing in the pipeline.
Unfortunately for Carbon Motors, it looks like the E7 and other purpose-built police vehicle concepts will never happen--at least, not in their current form. Without the DOE loan, Carbon Motors was without the $300 million needed to remodel a vacant Visteon plant in Connersville, Indiana and begin selling cars. As we've seen with other high-tech automotive startups
, it's not an easy business to get off the ground.
Shortly after we taped our episode with Carbon Motors
, founder Stacy Dean confirmed to TRANSLOGIC that the company had shut down operations.
Nonetheless, all of the attention the E7 received helps to perpetuate the idea that police cars need to be designed, engineered, and manufactured from the ground up, to meet the specific needs of the officers who rely on them. Perhaps someday we'll see such a vehicle. But for now, it looks like police cars based on widely available, full-sized sedans
will carry on.