24 August 2000 | David Arminas
Humberside Police will trial a modified Volvo T5 turbo police cruiser next month in what the force hopes will be the final hurdle before having a totally dual-fuel fleet.
"The turbo cruiser has always been a stumbling block to completing our total switch to dual fuel," said Alan Hocking, fleet and supplies manager at Humberside Police. The conversion was carried out by LPG Autocentres in Poole and is the first turbo conversion in the UK, said a company spokesperson. The T5 will include the installation of an 80-litre liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank in the boot.
Around half of Humberside's fleet is now dual fuel, including Ford Transit vans, Mercedes Sprinter vans, Protons, Ford Escorts and Vauxhall Astras. The 235 vehicles run on unleaded petrol and LPG, which is about half the price per litre of unleaded.
The saving on fuel spending is around 20 per cent after the cost of conversions is taken into account, Hocking explained. Humberside's annual fuel bill had been about £900,000 but dual-fuel vehicles were helping to save in the region of £200,000, which added up to "a lot of bobbies on the beat", he said.
Conversion of the Humberside force's vehicles began in 1996 with four Astras, which are still in use. Hocking realised that government pressure for a cleaner environment, along with forthcoming standards for lower vehicle exhaust emissions, would mean turning to alternate fuels eventually. "We thought that we had better go done this route on our own rather than be forced to go down it in the future," he said.
Other forces have experimented with dual-fuel vehicles with varying degrees of success, said David Lazenby, resources officer at Devon and Cornwall Police. But lower engine power and loss of space through installation of the LPG tank were counted against it being adopted on a wide scale. Lazenby acknowledged that LPG technology has moved on in recent years and some forces are trialing converted vehicles.
Gloucestershire Police recently purchased four dual-fuel Astras and will evaluate their performance in a three-year trial, aided by grants from the government's Powershift scheme. "When you consider that, it is fairly cheap to install LPG capability," said Bob Hood, fleet manager at Gloucestershire Police.
Accord Southern, which runs West Sussex County Council's car pool, has started taking delivery of 32 dual-fuel Astras and Fiestas with a further 20 expected by the end of the year.
Conversions for Southern by LPG Autocentres were around £1,750 per vehicle, but 75 per cent of the total bill was paid for by a grant of £42,000 from the Powershift scheme. Managed by the Energy Savings Trust, Powershift was set up to stimulate a national market for clean fuel vehicles.For more information on Powershift, call 0345 277200.