More “RoboCop” than “Beverly Hills Cop,” the Carbon E7 is a 300-horsepower bio-diesel-fueled bad-guy chaser equipped with sensors for weapons of mass destruction and automatic license-plate scanners. “It’s really a homeland security machine, not a cop car,” says William Li, CEO of Carbon Motors in Atlanta.
Faster and “greener” than the standby Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Carbon Motors’ car is a bold entry for a start-up company challenging an increasingly fragmented auto market.
Carbon Motors – a collaboration among a small team of investors, engineers, and Georgia Tech – needs to sell about 20,000 cars to the 240,000-vehicle US law-enforcement fleet to warrant its proposed 2012 production run. Its light plastic panels, a German-engineered drivetrain that nearly doubles the mileage compared with the market-dominant Crown Vic, and a green cachet with a biodiesel engine make it a stark contrast to the “rolling offices” that police use today.
In a wily move to gather engineering ideas and create viral marketing buzz, the company created a “Carbon Council” of nearly 2,000 beat officers across the United States who contributed 88 original ideas to the car – including a “hoseable” rear seat, an extra-wide driver’s seat set into a helicopter cockpit-style front compartment, and side emergency lights to increase visibility and safety. Computer-aided design technology and outsourcing of the drivetrain have kept development costs low.
Best quote from William Li – “Seven years after 9/11, we’ve got our first responders in retail passenger cars that were designed 30 years ago for Sunday drives.”