World Dream Cars Update

Carbon Motors E7

>> Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The E7 doesn’t exist, but if police agencies nationwide know what’s good for them, it will. It would be the world’s first purpose-built police car, a diesel-powered Dodge Charger look-alike with a laundry list of built-to-order options, such as armored front doors and dashboards (capable of stopping 9-mm rounds) and forward-looking infrared cameras. But the biggest potential innovation here is the business model. “Law enforcement agencies don’t buy in bulk,” says William Li, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Carbon Motors. “They have no economies of scale.”

For major automakers, there’s no profit in designing a niche product like a purpose-built squad car. So agencies continue to buy standard Crown Victorias or Chevy Tahoes and then install aftermarket lights, sirens, laptop docks and other gear. As a leaner, niche-vehicle startup, Carbon Motors—started by ex-Ford executives—wants to deliver a high-performance, fully integrated patrol vehicle for roughly the same price as the retrofitted models currently on the road. In theory, by standardizing the installation process for the various police-friendly options, and using newer manufacturing processes (including thermoplastics instead of paint for customized color schemes), Carbon Motors could squeak out a profit that, as Li calls them, “legacy automakers” couldn’t.

The E7 would go from 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph, and a slew of humble-sounding improvements, like seats that can accommodate radios and other bulky equipment. According to Li, the E7 would start in the high-20s, climbing up to as much as $70,000 with options like license-plate-reading cameras and even WMD sensors. In the long run, the E7 could prove more cost-effective than current patrol cars: Carbon Motors claims it will be 40 percent more fuel efficient, with a life span of 250,000 miles (most models used as police cars are expected to last for 70,000 miles).

Short-Term Impact: Carbon Motors is still on the hunt for funding. According to Li, a “large financing transaction” could lead to a working E7 within three years.

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