Riverside Police Department’s hybrid patrol vehicle, driven principally by Officer Dan Marrello (above), has been out of service repeatedly due to electrical and mechanical breakdowns. (Bob Uphues/Editor)

Back in early 2021, the Riverside Police department deployed its first-ever hybrid fuel patrol car, a Ford Explorer Interceptor, capable of running on battery power as well as combustion engine, if the occasion called for it.

With elected officials and residents – voters in 2008 passed an advisory referendum calling for the village to adopt “green” policies and practices – encouraging sustainable alternatives, police decided to give a hybrid patrol vehicle a test run.

But, after a year and a half, that experiment appears to have been a dud. On Aug. 18, Riverside Police Commander Leo Kotor delivered the verdict on the department’s hybrid patrol car.

“At this point, it just doesn’t seem like it should be our primary emergency vehicle on the street handling emergency calls,” Kotor said.

According to Kotor, the hybrid vehicle has been pulled from the streets six times during the roughly 19 months since it was deployed, and it has been “out of service five to six months” total. 

He rattled off a laundry list of repairs – luckily still covered under the vehicle’s warranty – for the village board, which approved the $37,700 purchase in spring 2019, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It had to go have the engine completely rebuilt,” Kotor said. “We had to rebuild three cylinders on it. It kept misfiring, spark plug issues with the direct injectors for it. … A lot of things that we’re seeing with this vehicle every time it goes out of service are just major electrical issues.”

Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley said he has looked into other hybrid/electric vehicle alternatives to the Ford Explorer, but he said the price of those vehicles, which might be more durable, “are pretty high right now.”

“It’s definitely something we are constantly looking at and reviewing,” Buckley said. “It is a priority of ours to look at all these things, make sure we’re getting the right product here for Riverside, but also looking towards the future and what we can do with electric vehicles.”

The hybrid vehicle remains in the rotation for police patrol, said Buckley, but it is driven by just a couple of officers who are more familiar with hybrids and how to monitor them. 

Officer Dan Marrello, whose own personal vehicle is a hybrid and who was an enthusiastic supporter of bringing on a hybrid, drives it almost exclusively, Buckley said.

“We’ve not opted yet to remove it from patrol,” Buckley said. “But, maybe in another year it might get rolled down to another department for non-emergency use.”

The police squad car is the only alternate-fuel vehicle in the village’s fleet at this time.

“[Hybrid vehicles] are coming along; we’re getting close,” said Buckley. “But we’re not completely there yet [for police use].”