Volume 16, Issue 40 - October 2 - October 8, 2008

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Getting Around
Stories on the Move

Officer Paul Loomis drives the solar-powered buggy while patrolling downtown Annapolis. While the standard all-terrain vehicles manufactured by the Bad Boy Buggy Company run on electricity, these batteries are recharged by solar collectors atop the roof.

by Erica Stratton

Solar-Powered Buggy

If the best way to change how we get around is one small piece at a time, the Maryland Department of General Services has found a niche. For the last year, the General Services police force has patrolled on a solar-powered Bad Boy Buggy.

Officer Paul Loomis, who has been patrolling for the past five years, says the Bad Boy has been a vast improvement. A gift from BP Energy Company, the vehicle is born of a union between BP solar technology and the Bad Boy Buggy Company. Bad Boy’s standard all-terrain buggy runs on electricity, but BP’s solar panels on the buggy’s roof catch UV rays even when it’s cloudy, charging the power cells hidden under the front seat.

The buggies, originally designed for hunting and off-roading, can be purchased for about $8,500. The solar-power modification is extra.

The buggy’s other benefits are subtler. As I rode with Officer Loomis on his usual beat in the state complex, people smiled and waved. Coming upon a cherry picker inching along, we darted ahead to stop traffic long enough to allow it to make a difficult turn. Such feats, said Loomis, would be impossible in the usual police car, which guzzles gas and fits awkwardly down Annapolis’ narrow streets.

The quiet buggy is nimble enough to drive up onto the curb and to speed down the cobbled sidewalks after a purse-snatcher. Riding in the small, open-framed vehicle, Loomis is more visible to the community, easily able to converse with people on the street. Such communication has been called community policing, he says, but he prefers to think of it as “what it means to be a police officer.”

The only drawback is the open design of the cab: Even with its tarp sides pulled down, it can get nippy.

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