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High-voltage protection

Security firm goes green with electric patrol car

Posted: September 3, 2008 9:48 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Josh Scruggs, operations manager for the Santa Clarita branch of Maxwell Security Services, poses atop the company's new electric patrol vehicle, which has helped reduce the company's fuel costs.

It rolls on three wheels, seats two people and peers through the night with three headlights.

The bed of the white "Xebra" electric truck doesn't contain any security equipment, just the 12 lead-acid batteries that keep the vehicle moving.

It runs solely on electricity and it's Maxwell Security's way of saving money on gasoline and helping the environment.

For the past two months, the private security company hummed through the blacktop jungles of the Santa Clarita Valley with its Xebra.

However stealth it might be, driving a three-wheeled car has caught the eyes of others.

"It's fun," said Josh Scruggs, operations manager of Maxwel's Santa Clarita branch. "It gets me noticed."

The decision to use the electric cars, which were purchased from Santa Rosa-based company Zap!, revolves around high gas prices and the impact of fuel-powered cars on the environment, according to owner Fritz Maxwell, whose company also operates in Las Vegas and Palm Springs. The Santa Clarita branch opened in 1994, two years after Maxwell started his business.

He used his Palm Springs branch to test whether an electric car would make sense because the desert community is flat.

After a couple years in Palm Springs, Maxwell bought the Xebra and an electric scooter for the Santa Clarita branch to use in patrolling shopping centers, schools and neighborhoods overseen by homeowner associations.

It's a decision that's paid off in multiple ways.

"I feel good when I drive it," Scruggs said, adding that it is helping the environment.

The savings at the pump aren't bad, either.

Maxwell estimates that the electric patrol car runs 80 miles a day which means he's saving more than $30 on gas daily.

"At the end of the month, that's a grand," he said, adding that the car's payments are a couple hundred a month.

Scruggs said the fuel costs for his two fuel-powered patrol cars have also gone down since they are only used during the day when it is too hot to drive the electric cars which don't have air conditioning.

Maxwell made about $8,000 worth of modifications on the Xebra, which cost about $24,000 to buy.

He is looking into buying more electric cars as he believes using the Zap! cars work best for service companies, like plumbers and pool cleaners, that frequently criss-cross the local valley.

The car tops 60 mph on local streets, making it easier to go through the hilly areas. While security officers don't have to take the electric cars to the gas station, they do hook them up to the charging stations for 6 to 8 hours.

There are a handful of charging stations in the local valley, including a spot at their Valencia office and the parking garage at Westfield Valencia Town Center, Maxwell said.

And as if saving money and helping the environment aren't enough reasons to have an electric car, Maxwell said the low-noise car enhances crime-fighting.

"It's quiet. You can sneak up on people," he said.


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