In 2003, a former police officer and Ford Executive got an idea that at the time appeared impossible — a vehicle made specifically for law enforcement by law enforcement. Just as a fire truck is made specifically for the fire service, a car needed to be designed and manufactured with nothing but the needs of law enforcement in mind.
Formed in a small office in Los Angeles, in 2006 Carbon Motors began morphing from an interesting idea into a tangible reality when they moved to Atlanta and began pursuing investors.
It was around that time that I heard about this daunting mission and while skeptical at first, I got the impression that Carbon Motors was not going away anytime soon.
I first spoke to Chief Brand Officer Stacy Dean Stephens in 2008 and while I was excited about what I was being told, there were still some questions not yet answered.
Carbon Motors has encountered some significant hurdles since that initial discussion, but you would have to been living under a rock the last few years to not know that Carbon is for real.
They recently launched their second vehicle — the Carbon TX7 — which is a command vehicle that can be used for other purposes such as surveillance, prisoner transport and personal carrier capabilities.
The idea with this new concept is that law enforcement can purchase one vehicle and use it for multiple missions, thus maximizing the efficiency of the funds spent on that vehicle.
Mirroring the E7, the TX7 will have options such as weapons-of-mass-destruction sensors, infrared cameras, thermal imaging, and gun shot detection equipment.
The 10-passenger vehicle built on a truck chassis fills a blank space in the market. With a base price of $149,950, they will be on the streets of America in 2014.
While the TX7 will beat its patrol car companion to the streets, much has changed since we last spoke to Carbon Motors.
Some have wondered where Carbon has been in the recent past. The short answer is a lot of places. For example, Stacy Dean Stephens had just returned from Dubai, where they introduced Carbon Motors to more than 19,000 law enforcement officers from more than 100 countries at the Intersec Conference.
As they approach their 10-year anniversary as a company, I thought it would be a good idea to update the profession. As usual, Stacy Dean Stephens was ready and excited to help, so I asked the questions that many of you have been asking.
The demand for the E7 remains high with more than 25,000 orders representing 600 police agencies. The concept appears to be sticking with agencies with interest being at all-time high after 10 years in business without a car in production yet. Stephens states that the goal is to get the E7 into full-scale production.
“It is no small undertaking. It takes a lot of people collaborating,” Stephens said.
That collaboration has always started with their advisory council, consisting of 3,500 law enforcement officers representing 2,500 agencies.
“We reach out to the council frequently, and it is our desire to continue to grow that,” said Stephens.
When I first spoke to Carbon Motors, my biggest concern was the cost of the car. The bottom dollar is always a priority in cash-strapped cities, so would Carbon Motors be able to convince them of the benefits of the ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ versus the year-one cost?
“Once the fuel crisis began it became much easier to explain the total cost of ownership and how the E7 can save them money” according to Stephens.
What kind of gas savings can a city save with the E7? Stephens expects gas mileage “north of 35 miles per gallon” and with fuel being one of the highest expenditures in any government budget, that will certainly draw the attention of many.
Stephens, a former law enforcement officer, said the “lack of attention” paid to the safety component of standard police cars fueled his desire to see the E7 on the streets.
“Whether it is technology or design, the first thing we do is discuss officer safety,” said Stephens.
The idea of safety goes much further than seat belts and ergonomics.
“There is not a single police car on this planet that has been crash tested with police equipment in it,” Stephens explained. “The moment you add an aftermarket kit there is no requirement for recertification for safety.”
Stephens clearly understands what officers across America deal with. Much of the aftermarket equipment is literally put on with Velcro, and Carbon Motors wants to ensure that will end with their product.
The E7 — and every piece of its attached equipment and technology — will be required to go through intense federal motor vehicle safety standards.
The Bottom Line
With the new TX7 hitting the streets next year and the sedan looking at production within three years, it is clear that Carbon Motors is no longer a concept but a true competitor in the police car market. Some are still waiting on the other side of the fence but progress has been steady in the last decade and it appears that it will come to fruition in a department near you.