Wilton police waiting to make switch to all-electric vehicles

WILTON — The Wilton Police Department will not be adding fully electric vehicles to its fleet just yet, Capt. Thomas Conlan said on Monday.

Following inspiration from Westport police, which added a Tesla to its service vehicle fleet a few years ago, Conlan said the department seriously considered a similar addition. After observing the vehicle’s performance capabilities for the Westport department, though, Conlan said Wilton will stick with its current hybrid options.

“I think at this point we stay the course with the hybrid vehicles,” Conlan told the police commission. “And then look to augment our fleet with a few of these full electric vehicles as we move forward.”

He added, “once the technology gets there,” he hopes to fully transition the fleet to all-electric vehicles.

Currently, the department uses a multitude of Ford Interceptors that utilize hybrid technology. The police captain said more hybrids are going to be ordered to overtake the final few fully gas engine cars in the fleet.

“At this time, with the Ford hybrids that we have, they are making a big dent in gas usage and environmental effects,” Conland said. “Just by doing that, we are saving at least $3,000 to $4,000 a year with a hybrid as compared to a traditional gas powered vehicle.”

As for a fully electric vehicles, Wilton obtained performance notes from the Westport Police Department and believes the technology just isn’t quite there yet for the demand that officers would need from it.

The captain detailed that, as of now, a Tesla model could not be fitted for a prisoner containment cage. Also, Conlan said the Tesla model that Westport uses can run for roughly 16 hours before having to be charged again.

“They can get maybe two shifts out of it before they have to bring it in,” Conlan said. “So they have mostly been using it for a traffic unit during the day, or maybe for administrative use during daytime hours at this point, but they do like the car.”

Conlan said with squad cars running mobile data terminals, radar units, lights and sirens, there are a lot of features “that we have in our cars that we didn't have 10 years ago,” he said. “(That is) a lot of battery usage.”

Police Commission Chairman Donald Sauvigne said the future will be electronic vehicles “one way or another,” and that with advances in technology the department will look back into adding them to the fleet.

“Something we might want to look into, definitely if we are looking at a new (police) building in a year or so, hopefully something we might want to add is a few charging stations so that we can augment our fleet with electronic vehicles as we move forward,” Conlan said.