E. Pikeland Police Get First-Of-A-Kind Vehicle

What's inside this unmarked police vehicle makes it a one-of-a-kind cop car in Chester County.


The white 2011 Chevrolet S.U.V. may not look like an unmarked police car on the outside. It's not supposed to. It's unmarked. What makes this East Pikeland Police vehicle unique in Chester County is what's tucked away behind the backseats.

It's a tank for compressed natural gas (CNG).  East Pikeland Police Chief James Franciscus says this is the only CNG-powered police vehicle in Chester County. It looks like many standard police cars on the inside with radios, computers and a partition between the front and rear seats. Behind the fold down rear seat backs in a big tank for liquid compressed natural gas.

Chief Franciscus says there are a lot of advantages to using CNG. "It's a clean-burning fuel, it burns 100% clean. The cost of the fuel is signficiantly less than (gasoline)."  The only fueling station in the area is at the Exelon facility in Phoenixville, just a few short minutes from the East Pikeland Police station. CNG at the pump was listed at $2.05 per gallon Thursday afternoon.

Franciscus says the Township Board of Supervisor's gave the green light to converting a police vehicle after a representatives from Exelon (whch owns PECO) made a presentation on the benefits of burning CNG.

The Chief says the township looked for a "factory" CNG vehicle but could not find one suitable for the department's needs. That's why an existing vehicle in the department's fleet was converted. This SUV can also still run on gasoline if the CNG tank runs low far from the fueling station.

CNG is not new and is actually fairly common for some kinds of vehicles. Fransiscus says "they've been using it for trash trucks, they use it for those jitney busses that run you back and forth at the airport parking lots, they've been using it for school buses (in some places). It's pretty readily-available but usually only in pumping stations for those kinds of (fleet) vehicles."

He says having the Exelon fueling station so close by is what makes using CNG possible for East Pikeland.

He says the vehicle, which is one of five in his department's fleet, drives pretty much like a normal vehicle. He says the officers who drive it have "been pretty pleasantly surprised."

Unlike a gasoline tank, the CNG tank actually sits inside the vehicle and poses no explosive danger, according to Chief Fransiscus.

Jay Beckerman June 07, 2013 at 12:14 PM
"The only fueling station in the area is at the Exelon facility in Phoenixville,..." Exelon owns the Limerick nuclear plant; didn't t know they had one squirreled away in Pnxvl. Did you mean Exxon? Writers need editors, even/especially if the writers are editors.
Jay Beckerman June 07, 2013 at 12:17 PM
This is a police vehicle, which is a category expected to occasionally take bullets from miscreants. Is this a wise decision? Oh, since it's unmarked, it's invulnerable? What testing was done to cover that contingency?
Jay Beckerman June 07, 2013 at 12:26 PM
If there is an Exelon CNG fueling station in Phoenixville, why doesn't the story say where it is and whether it is open to the public, and whether Exelon (and other companies, and other public agencies) use it for fleet CNG fueling?
Rachel Ambrose June 07, 2013 at 12:27 PM
This writer does not need editors, he did mean Exelon. Exelon is an energy corp and they own PECO.
Jay Beckerman June 07, 2013 at 01:09 PM
It takes a heavy tank to contain CNG. How much weight was added to the car by adding this CNG system? What company did the work, and where, to do this conversion, and at what cost? Would they convert any car to CNG for the same cost, or did this conversion get done for a cost below market cost? CNG has about 30-35% of the energy density of gasoline. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=9991 So, doesn't that mean it should take about 3x the amount of CNG to move a police car the distance as a gallon gasoline? What mileage is this car getting per dollar of fuel compared to running it on gasoline? Did the township disclose to its insurance company the fact that this car now has a CNG tank? Did that cause the underwriter to increase the insurance cost?
John June 07, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Jay, can you be mildly more annoying?
George June 07, 2013 at 03:11 PM
John, could you be any less curious? Or, are you a low information voter at heart? Jay is asking some pertinent questions. Conversion costs to CNG are very pricey. That, combined with ongoing operating costs could make this experiment a pig in a poke. The bottom line question is whether or not the township should be using tax dollars to fund someone's idea of an interesting experiment. To answer that question and decide if this move was prudent would require inquires like Jay's to be answered. Jay is spot-on with the efficiency equation of CNG vs petrol.
harry finster June 07, 2013 at 03:48 PM
hopefully the police chief nor the car will ever have to move fast or be exposed to danger,it could be a catastrophe
Bob Byrne (Editor) June 07, 2013 at 04:00 PM
No Jay, I meant Exelon. Exelon, which owns PECO, has a CNG pump at their facility in Phoenixville.
Hey Jude June 07, 2013 at 09:36 PM
As a township resident I applaud the chief for trying to go green.
Matt Foley June 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM
The writer provided a link to CNG price. Lesser energy content of CNG is factored in its price. CNG price is given in gge (gal. of gas equivalent). The site also has a calculator that addresses some of your cost concerns. It appears that lower fuel cost offsets the other higher costs over the life of the vehicle. Re safety, you seem to be implying bullets have already been proven safe around gas. I couldn't help noticing your focus on cost and safety with no mention of environmental impact.
John June 10, 2013 at 07:28 PM
What do you care????? YOU LIVE IN CALIFORNIA you idiot.


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