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City of Vancouver spends $3.1 million to buy 54 gas-powered police cars

No electric options currently available for specialized police vehicle, according to city staff
The Dodge Charger Enforcer used by the Vancouver Police Department and made by Fiat Chrysler Canada will be discontinued after 2023.

The City of Vancouver has spent $3.1 million to buy 54 Dodge Charger Enforcer patrol cars for the police department but none are electric because there are no options currently available for the specialized vehicles, according to the city’s director of waste management and resource recovery.

Albert Shamess told city council Oct. 25 that staff is exploring the market for electric police cars and noted one is currently under development, although he didn’t say which manufacturer is building the cruiser.

“As soon as it's available, we plan to obtain one for VPD to use as a test,” Shamess said. “But we're a couple of years away from that vehicle being ready.”

Council heard that the new Chargers tend to only be in service for five years, to which Coun. Adriane Carr reacted by saying, “Whoa, that’s pretty short.” Shamess explained the cars are “high use, high demand vehicles, so they wear out fairly quickly.”

Carr asked if the expectation is for the Chargers to all be replaced with electric cars at the end of their five-year cycle. Shamess pointed to a car’s battery life as the concern before committing to an all-electric fleet.

“That's the hope over the next few years — that we'll see the changes in technologies, particularly around battery technology,” he said. “The challenge, of course, is because [the police] use their lights on an ongoing basis and they're basically always on the road, there's no real charge time for [the cars].”

The decision to buy the 54 Chargers was based on consultation with the police department and the fact the Enforcer model will no longer be manufactured after 2023. Some of the new Chargers have been delivered, while others are on order.

Dodge Charge Enforcer 'continues to provide best value'

Alex Ralph, the city’s chief procurement officer, told council there was an urgency to place an order for the Chargers by October. The city’s bid committee approved the $3.1 million purchase before it was reviewed by council.

Ralph said because council was in recess during the election campaign, the bid committee went ahead and secured the contract with Fiat Chrysler Canada on behalf of the city government. A report went before council Oct. 25 as a formality.

“We received a notification from Fiat Chrysler Canada, letting us know that they were discontinuing next year their production line [for the Charger Enforcer] and if we wanted to continue with this model…we needed to place orders by October,” he said.

Coun. Jean Swanson asked Ralph: “So this is kind of asking for approval retroactively?”

Ralph: “On the first opportunity when council reconvenes [from the election campaign], the chief procurement officer must inform council about that award. It’s only for informational purposes. The report does not have any recommendations.”

The report said a team comprised of the city’s fleet management and supply chain management conducted an evaluation of other car models for replacing the cruiser “and determined that the Dodge Charger Enforcer continues to provide the best value.”

In 2017, the VPD spent $60,000 on two electric motorcycles. File photo Mike Howell

Electric motorcycles

Though cruisers continue to be gas-powered, the VPD has added electrical vehicles to its fleet in other forms.

In 2017, the VPD paid $60,000 for two electric motorcycles from California-based Zero Motorcycles. The bikes, which were to be used primarily downtown, have a range of up to 227 kilometres in the city on a full charge and have a top speed of 165 kilometres per hour.

At the time of that purchase, the department had two electric cars and eight hybrids, which were being used by investigators and administrative staff. Another 20 electric cars was expected to be delivered to the VPD fleet in 2017.

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services announced in November 2021 that it placed an order for the Rosenbauer RT, an electric pump truck. It was expected to arrive in late 2022 and be on the streets sometime next year.

Meanwhile, the newly elected council will be sworn in Nov. 7 at The Orpheum theatre before holding its first meeting later that day at 5 p.m.

Coun. Lisa Dominato, who was re-elected and forms part of the ABC Vancouver majority on council, announced at the end of last week’s meeting that she will introduce a motion Nov. 15 to begin the process to hire 100 police officers and 100 mental health nurses over the next four years.

If approved by council, such an addition of officers will likely mean more cruisers need to be purchased, although it’s not clear whether the requested number of officers will all be rookies, who tend to begin their careers in patrol.

In its history, the VPD has attracted experienced officers from other departments, some of whom work as detectives or investigators and typically use smaller unmarked sedans for transportation.

Mayor-elect Ken Sim and his ABC team promised during the campaign to hire 100 officers and 100 nurses at an estimated cost of $20 million per year. Historically, council has met in December to finalize the city’s budget but has the option to move deliberations to the spring.

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