COVINGTON - Covington police officers could soon be patrolling parts of the city in electric-powered vehicles.
With the phenomenal increase in gas prices affecting operating costs for the department, Police Chief Stacey Cotton and city officials are looking for creative ways to save on fuel.
On Thursday, Mayor Kim Carter and City Manager Steve Horton joined Cotton in the police department parking lot to see a demonstration of the T3 Series personal mobility vehicle in hopes it could be the solution they're seeking.
Powered by two lithium batteries, the three-wheeled vehicle looks a bit like a scooter. The operator stands on a 9-inch raised platform, allowing for good visibility in large crowds.
The vehicle can reach speeds of up to 18 mph and includes headlights and taillights, emergency lights and a siren. It also features a storage area for belongings and a port to plug in a cell phone or radio. Batteries typically last a full 8-hour shift and can be recharged either inside or outside the unit.
Each vehicle costs $10,000, but it's the low operational cost that has city officials interested: Only about 10 cents worth of electricity is used per 8-hour shift, according to Mac Brown, vice president of Interceptor Public Safety Products Inc., a Forsyth-based distributor. One police department in South Carolina did a cost study analysis and determined the Ford Crown Victorias they were using cost $50 in fuel per shift in comparison, Brown said.
The potential savings for the Covington Police Department has not yet been determined, Cotton said.
Carter, Horton and Cotton all took turns driving the vehicle Thursday, making circles around the parking lot. Carter was the first to venture out onto the street and was clearly impressed by her ride.
"That's alright right there," she said. "I want to see it at 18 (mph).
Cotton said he could envision using the vehicles for patrolling the Square and during special events, or even in some shopping center parking lots.
"I think it's an impressive piece of equipment," he said.
The vehicles are manufactured by T3 Motion out of California.
Interceptor began selling the vehicles in February, and has sold about 75 so far, Brown said.
Customers include the cities of Marietta and Forsyth in Georgia; Columbia and Hilton Head in South Carolina and Birmingham, Ala.
It was Carter who suggested the police department consider using the vehicles after she saw them at a trade show during the Georgia Municipal Association's annual conference.
She said she would even consider purchasing some for staff in other departments as well, such as planning and development employees who need to deliver documents around town.
Brown said the vehicles can be modified for civilian use if necessary and are street legal.
Cotton said he's still looking at other options and wants to make sure whatever decision is made will save the department money.
"If a vehicle sits more than it is actually used, it's no good," he said. "We are looking at where this will fit into our patrol."
He added that he will likely make a decision on whether to purchase the vehicles in the next month.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.