Plug-in hybrid electric cars work well for a lot of businesses, so why not law enforcement? Ford thinks it’s a perfect fit.

The automaker unveiled the Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan, its first PHEV police vehicle. But don't expect to see it in one of those chases that the news channels like to show. The automaker said it's designed for "police and fire chiefs, detectives, and other government personnel whose jobs don't require a pursuit-rated vehicle."

On a fully-charged battery, the car has a 21-mile range with a top speed of 85 mph when operating in electric-only mode. Stephen Tyler, Ford police brand marketing manager, said it's the company's first police vehicle "that can potentially get through an entire shift using no gasoline whatsoever."

"Anyone can plug this in to any wall outlet to run gas- and emissions-free on battery-only operation," said Tyler. The automaker believes most agencies won't need anything more than a regular 120-volt wall outlet to recharge. The car can also switch to gasoline mode, giving it a range of some 500 miles.

Alan Shedd, director, energy solutions, at Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, and a PHEV owner, noted that several police departments already use fully electric cars, including BMWs in Los Angeles.

"Plug-in hybrids are a good option—providing the economy and low emissions of all-electric drive for typical driving and the ability to run on gasoline for longer trips," said Shedd, pointing out several reasons.

"Police cars and other vehicles used in shifts—including cabs, trash trucks and buses—leave from, and return to a specific location where charging facilities can be set up," he said. Additionally, police vehicles spend a lot of time parked or idling.

"They're often parked at highway construction sites and at locations where police are directing traffic. The vehicles sit at idle to power lights, equipment, and the air conditioner, which wastes gas and is hard on the engine," said Shedd. "Plug-in vehicles are a good solution. Other than high-speed chases, a lot of police work is at low speeds."