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Next-Gen Police Car Takes Shot from Uncle Sam

Carbon Motors’ E7 police cruiser is denied funding from the federal Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

Is the next generation of police cars up on blocks before they ever roll out of the lot? For at least one specialized U.S. manufacturer, the task just got tougher.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) denied Carbon Motors’ application for funding under the federal Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program this week, casting doubt on whether the company’s next-gen E7 police cruiser will be built.

More than 500 orders from various law enforcement agencies had already rolled in for the vehicle, which was designed from scratch, intended to be the ultimate police car. Stacy Dean Stephens, co-founder of Carbon Motors and a former police officer, has labeled the vehicle a “homeland security platform.”

William Santana Li, CEO and co-founder of Carbon Motors, said in a press release that the company was “outraged” at DOE’s denial of the funding, claiming the decision was based on political posturing in an election year. According to Santana Li, Carbon Motors was the last of the applications for the program under active consideration by the agency that were “pushed aside.”

According to the company’s statement, other manufacturers that were denied by the federal government included General Motors, Chrysler, Next Auto, Aptera and Bright Automotive.

In an email to Autoweek, DOE spokesman Damien LaVera was vague on the details surrounding the application denial, telling the publication that while the E7 was an interesting project, an agreement couldn’t be reached that would protect U.S. taxpayers.

In its press release, Carbon Motors announced that it will look for alternative financing to manufacture the E7, which has features quite different from the familiar police patrol car.

One of the biggest differences is the E7’s engine, a “forced induction” diesel. The result is an engine with increased performance and 40 percent greater fuel efficiency than the average law enforcement vehicle, according to Carbon Motors. In addition, video cameras are installed in the rear compartment for monitoring and recording activity in the back seat.

On the exterior, the E7’s light bar is flush-mounted into the body and wraps completely around the top of the car. The body panels are made from thermoformed plastic, which don’t require paint because the color is inside the panels. The front doors and dash are fitted with ballistic panels, and the frame is made from hydroformed aluminum, a technology typically reserved for high-end sports cars.

“The truth is, government funds are already being used to pay for law enforcement vehicle substitutes — many of which function very effectively as retail passenger cars and none of which function well for the unique law enforcement mission,” Stephens said in a statement.

“The Carbon ATVM loan (which would have been paid back with interest) would simply have ensured that the taxpayers were getting their money’s worth as law enforcement end-users would benefit from using safe and efficient products that actually work well for their mission,” Stephens added.

With reporting by
Government Technology contributing writer Colin Wood.


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.