By on January 18, 2018

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

We know the State of California loves electric cars, but the Los Angeles Police Department may have mixed emotions. Back in June of 2016, the LAPD awarded BMW with a contract to provide 100 battery-powered i3 hatchbacks as part of a plan to enhance its public image. At the time, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the press, “We should be thinking green in everything we do,” adding that the electric BMWs would “also save money and resources.”

Fast forward to 2018 and the contract is beginning to look like a good way to waste millions of dollars. The LAPD agreed to lease the vehicles, effectively doubling its electrified fleet, for three years. The logic was that the gas savings would offset the $1.4 million it would cost the police force to apprehend them from BMW. While that sounds wonderful, there is a problem — the LAPD isn’t driving them. 

An investigative report from CBS Los Angeles kept track of the vehicles and accessed the departmental mileage logs to see how far the LAPD drove the i3s. It claims some managed a few thousand miles during their time as police vehicles, while others only have a few hundred miles on the odometer. Granted, the cars haven’t been with the LAPD that long, but most aren’t getting the kind of use one would expect even a light-duty law enforcement vehicle to see.

Considering the department said it would spend at least another $1.5 million for the infrastructure necessary to charge the vehicles on-site, the entire expenditure seems like a bit of a boondoggle. The CBS report alleges the sum of the initiative is roughly $10.2 million. While we’re not sure how it came to that figure, know it has to be in excess of $3 million. No matter how you slice it, it’s still a lot of taxpayer money. But is it a total waste like the report claims?

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

If the cars were sitting completely idle, then yes. However, if the force utilizes them for things like parking enforcement — writing tickets that make the city money — then the low milage would be more understandable. The NYPD relies on a bevy of energy-efficient gas and electric vehicles for its traffic and parking enforcement vehicles. Most of those don’t see a whole lot of miles per day, either. But the LAPD said the BMWs were intended for “community outreach and other police business,” which is about as vague as it gets.

CBS LA said sources claim the all-electric i3’s limited range made personnel reluctant to use the vehicles at all. One of the cars in the LAPD’s fleet has been around since May of 2016 and has averaged about six miles per week. The outlet also followed a few of the cars after leaving the lot, catching employees using them for non-police business. In a classic moment of gotcha journalism, CBS confronted an LAPD commander as she exited a nail salon. While she definitely wasn’t supposed to be using the departmental EV for that purpose, hell, at least the car was being driven.

LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas defended the program when questioned about the limited usage of the vehicles, saying “It’s all a part of saving the Earth, going green … quite frankly, to try and save money for the community and the taxpayers.”

Since the cars are presumably just going back to BMW (barely used) when this is all said and done, we’re not sure that’s really the case. There’s nothing green or fiscally sound about using finite resources to procure vehicles that nobody drives. It’s so odd because, while the battery-only version of the i3 isn’t a great long-haul vehicle, the car should be sufficient for transporting an officer to and from a courthouse or whatever local trip an administrator might need to make. LA is a sprawling city to be sure, but not so big as to completely nullify the i3’s ability to go from A to B within its borders.

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

[Images: BMW Group]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

87 Comments on “LAPD’s Multi-million Dollar Electric Fleet Allegedly Goes Unused and Unloved...”


  • avatar
    silentsod

    I’m shocked to hear this as CA, from the smallest municipality all the way to the state government, is usually a model of sensible spending and utilization of resources.

    • 0 avatar
      barimah182

      Reckless spending is everywhere nowadays, especially by the State. All cos they do not feel the pain from the taxpayer. Terrible indeed. Take on 2018 with a Luxury Brand at https://caremporiumusa.com

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    The Munich police uses several BMW i3s for city patrol duty.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Geneva uses Smart cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ThomasSchiffer

        That is possibly a smarter choice. Electric cars give me range anxiety, especially given my lead foot driving style.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I didn’t see any vans or anything of similar but my guess is routine stuff is handled by an officer in the Smart car, and they have a van or sedan of some sort for arrests. Parking is crampt in most of the city, anything larger than a VW Polo would probably not be wise for the authorities.

          • 0 avatar
            ThomasSchiffer

            I am under the impression that European police fleets are using these smaller city cars purely as a means of reducing their fleet emissions and improving their environmental image. They are useful for scouting and patrolling areas and if they need support they can radio it in.

            The standard Bavarian police cars are the BMW 320d Touring and BMW 520d Touring. Also in use are Volkswagen Tourans, Volkswagen Transporters and Mercedes Sprinters.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That seems to be a sound policing strategy.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Boondoggle is right.

    I don’t understand how anyone could spend $1.5 million on charging infrastructure for 100 cars. Even if they got their own personal charger, that’s $15k per car.

    As for the low mileage, my guess is the LAPD hasn’t been trained on how to use these vehicles, and so they’re afraid of them. Besides, the decision to acquire them came from the geniuses on high, not the rank and file.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      SCE to AUX, I doubt that training is a factor in low usage of i3 hatchbacks. The more likely explanation is police officers prefer to drive the other cars in the fleet instead of a small hatchback, especially since they’re not paying for the fuel. It’s like the i3 is an experiment to determine if the BMW badge can make any car desirable with an answer of no in the case of a funny looking electric hatchback.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Of course. The other cars have enough room for officers wearing utility belts, and have light bars and cages separating the back seats. Patrolling or scouting in these cars would work only in the better neighborhoods – they wouldn’t blend in driving through East L.A.

        Accept the fact it’s all about public relations and the BMWs were chosen over a Leaf because they were intended to be used by police lieutenants, captains and other higher-ups like the suits in the pitcure, not police on the beat.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m going to go out on a limb and conclude that someone who’s qualified to serve as a police officer could figure out how to drive an electric car.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Actually, I think you may be out on a limb.

        When it comes to EVs, range anxiety is an equal-opportunity issue. The general public has almost knowledge of charging infrastructure and how to manage the limitations of EVs, of which there are many.

        For cops who are used to driving all day without concern for fuel, an EV suddenly alters their work style. Cops are trained to respond anytime, anywhere, but a short-range EV prevents that.

      • 0 avatar
        JDG1980

        But can they *fit* in this tiny thing, especially when wearing full gear?

        There was an article on TTAC not too long ago about how many police departments are moving to trucks because the post-Crown Vic police cars don’t have enough room. And these are full-size sedans. Cops who find the Caprice or Taurus too small probably won’t like the i3 very much.

        (I tried to look up the stats on this, but oddly, the BMW i3’s hip room was listed as “N/A”.)

    • 0 avatar
      pdq

      Given that you’re charging 100 vehicles, it probably requires a transformer to be installed by Dept. of Water & Power, plus running the power into the parking garage, putting in 100 power “drops” (terminology?) purchasing and installing 100 charging stations, etc. It may not be so far out of line. If these things were being heavily used, you’re probably looking at 480V circuits for quick charging to keep the vehicles prepped and ready to go back into service (https://www.pluglesspower.com/learn/bmw-i3-charging-ultimate-guide/ ) I can’t imagine that would be cheap.

      I’m reading these things have a range of 81 miles. Add radios, computers, etc. to it and that will decrease the range. If you’re driving around LA all day on patrol, I could see range being a concern. Speed isn’t a problem. 0-60 in less than 7 sec is more than adequate. Rear visibility sucks in these however. If you saw something in passing, you won’t be able to look back at it, and changing lanes in traffic is tricky.

    • 0 avatar
      Brett Woods

      Cops are not going to change their routine unless they are told to. The brass has to direct the officers to use the i3’s. There will be the usual moans and groans as there always is with change. Then, the electric cars will get used.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Maybe it’s just because they’re ugly.

    -Patrick Star

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Due to environmental concerns, I expect they would rather wait for the high-speed train to be completed on-time and on-budget.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Cities wasting money? Nawww…couldn’t be…

    (Seriously, how many more officers could they hire for that $1.4 million, versus spending it on this stupid PR stunt?)

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    This sort of waste of taxpayers dollars damages the city government’s image as well as that of the police department. It also is harmful to the environmental movement. This is no different than getting a news story wrong in relation to the king of fake news. It is the last thing you want to do!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Repurpose them for use in a single-make demolition derby, and sell tickets, with the proceeds going to the homeless. Everybody wins!

  • avatar
    vvk

    Excellent, more cheap used low mileage cars for us!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    They are most likely not rated for interceptor duty and are too small to use for traditional patrol. I’m surprised the brass didn’t just requisition them for their own use, but my guess is they don’t want to be seen in them. Another poorly researched project by the Los Angeles Oblast of the PRK.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    A Democrat city wasting millions on feel good measures that get a lot of likes on social media, but in reality do nothing for tax payers?

    I.

    AM.

    SHOCKED.

    Maybe LAPD should focus more on you know, criminals and stuff, instead of enviro SJW virtue signaling measures.

  • avatar
    brn

    They lack the impact rating of a patrol vehicle.
    They lack the curb rating of a patrol vehicle.
    They lack the ballistic protection of a patrol vehicle.
    They lack the ability to carry the equipment of a patrol vehicle.
    They lack the RANGE of a patrol vehicle, especially when you add all the extra electronics.

    They simply can’t be used as a patrol vehicle. As such, they get used for “miscellaneous” duty, which is the primary reason for the low mileage.

    I suspect, some politician tried to play the California green game and forced this upon the PD without proper analysis. That same politician is probably going to rake the Chief over the coals for this report.

    • 0 avatar
      MoparRocker74

      AND, LEO’s have to rub elbows with the worst elements of society who would as soon kill them as look at them. Emasculating police officers by making them wheeze around in one of the dorkiest looking kiddie cars on the road would likely embolden the thugs, rapists, murderers and drug cartels infesting that city.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Given that they’re intended for running to community meetings, not pursuit, their visual impact on crooks is irrelevant. But you’re right that image matters—to the cops. Few professions have so many members who are transparently insecure about their masculinity. A Dodge Charger is a manly man car. An i3 is a nerdy moon buggy. It’s a juvenile and illogical way of thinking, sure, but what else is new.

        I do think the question of training is a real one too. The average joe has no clue about range or charging or one pedal driving or whatever. I’ve heard stories of gen-one Volts sent to auction after five years fleet service that had never been plugged in—either nobody knew you were supposed to, or nobody knew how, or everybody thought it was the other guy’s job.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Nobody expected them to take the place of Chargers and EcoBoost Explorers chasing crooks. They’re for parking enforcement, running errands, etc. But, they’re not even being used for that is the point.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Perfectly fine for most detective use instead of a Malibu or Fusion. They typically won’t put on that many miles but they also aren’t sitting behind the desk all day either. My county’s detective cars go to auction at around 100k and 8-12 yo.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Scoutdude, depends if you want people to notice you. Drive a Malibu and you may as well have a cloaking shield. Drive an i3, and you may as well have a disco ball. :)

    • 0 avatar
      pdq

      Chief Beck has announced his retirement already after more than 40 years with the department. His attitude will probably be one of indifference.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    The only electric car I’ve ever driven was expressly designed to slam into other electric cars for fun. I’m not entirely sure if that urge has completely gone away.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    Once there were people called journalists. When faced with this situation they would talk to those directly involved, like patrol officers, and find out the story. They’re gone now.

  • avatar
    markf

    Couple of million tax dollars wasted for city sponsored virtue signaling……

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Ironically from the fiscal standpoint this stunt could have maybe worked with ten to twenty units. In addition to parking extortion, there are plenty of fake, er administrative, police jobs who could have been given a department vehicle which would have given the “image” the polidiots were trying to achieve. I suspect someone’s hands were greased for the one hundred figure.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Yes, this would have been a much better test. In fact, those needing a vehicle for “extra” duties like that would probably enjoy using an i3. I know I would. Electric vehicles do have their place.

  • avatar
    James2

    No macho police officer would ever want to be seen in one of the silliest-looking cars ever made.

    In HNL, it’s different. Most (?) or many of our cops drive *their own* cars, subsidized by the city, so macho police officers being macho, mostly they tend to favor 4Runners. Not less than 10 minutes ago I just walked past an officer writing parking tickets. He drove an Explorer.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      @James2

      A very little known fact from around 1970 was that the Toronto Police drug squad was put in a bunch of VW beetles. Not sure why, possibly they were being punished for being uncivilized. Not that the Bugs made any difference.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Oh Geeze. I read the headline as “LADA’s Multi-million Dollar Electric Fleet…”

    I thought WTF? Lada is bringing electric cars to North America? I wasn’t expecting that!

    I think such an article would’ve been more interesting, and I’m not even a BEV kinda guy.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Watch the local news video. The reporter catches the LAPD Commander in charge of the fiscal department using one of these to go to a nail appointment and her kid’s school. Official work-related duties, no doubt…

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Look at Eric garcetti smiling there. That’s our proud mayor. Happy to be showing off how to pose with the newest way of wasting more tax dollars.

    Good to see some well earned public embarrassment thrown city hall’s way. It’ll be forgotten as garcetti explores a presidential run.

    This is how politicians fail up.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    This actually makes some sort of sense – or at least shows a parallel.

    Remember the EV-1? Leased to “opinion leaders” (basically, visible celebriatti) as real-world testing.

    Most of those things just sat. They’d drive them to public events (“Lookit MEEEE!!!”) but not use them otherwise. A sorry test; and probably because range and other real-world problems weren’t up to it.

    But the Greens concocted a Corn-Schtpirashy Theory – that GM was in league with the Devil, or Big Oil (same thing, to them) and had the engineers killed and burned the plans and crushed all of those things.

    Well, GM became Government Motors, and the EV-1 morphed into the Volt. And was built on laundered government money.

    And now we have THIS farce. LA’s taxpayers? Nope. The costs will be relayed to Sacremento; and when the state winds up in receivership, it will be the REST of the nation’s taxpayers who’ll foot the bill for this and similar farces.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Adam-12 Volt

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    The important question is what is the average mileage on these cars that the LAPD has had for a full year compared to the average for their other cars used for the same purposes. That the original reporter and all those repeating this story did not use a simple spreadsheet to get the numbers suggests the actual numbers may be less scandalous.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So you think there are Crown Vics and Chargers in their fleet that average 6 miles a week? Okay.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I don’t know. Do you? Are you certain the report accurately reported the data?

      The LAPD fleet includes plenty of other types of vehicles besides patrol sedans. Which these were not.

      Check out some fleet sales and see how some cars are sold with remarkably low mileage.

  • avatar
    la834

    The recharging infrastructure they built won’t go to waste. Someday not far in the future there will be larger, longer-ranged electric cars that will make more appropriate police cruisers.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Those will use different charging infrastructure. The new rapid chargers being developed will need way more current than even the highest amperage units currently available.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      A lot of office here have charging infrastructure as employee benefit too. Can’t they share the same charging infrastructure with employee parking?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Patrol vehicles often run 24/7. The existing charging system wouldn’t support that. Either a ten minute charger needs to be implemented or perhaps a battery swap method. The former sounds dangerous.

      The existing system might be helpful for other city vehicles.

  • avatar
    guardian452

    I work at a (much smaller than BMW, albeit profitable unlike our peers) EV maker – we do shuttle vans etc. When any of our several hundred vehicles breaks down, I hear about it.

    As such we have two types of customer: commercial (airport parking lots, hotels, package delivery, etc), and city and county government, mainly in CA and Chicagoland because that’s where the incentives are, using them as maintenance vehicles, paratransit, etc.

    It will surprise nobody to learn that the commercial customers are putting 200-300 miles/day AVERAGE on an EV with ~100 miles range, 365 days/year, and have some getting close to 200k miles after 4 years. We send those guys parts like axle seals, CV joints, charger receptacles, interior and trim plastic, fairly regular maintenance items.

    Meanwhile the government customers will do a press release about their new purchase and a bunch of pomp and circumstance then we will get a call 8 months later because there is a dead 12v battery and 17 miles on the odometer. Rinse and repeat every 6-8 months months until the HV battery needs a few cells replaced because the vehicle has NEVER had a full cycle put on it and sat outside for 3 Chicago winters.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    I like that photo above of the two police officials metaphorically sticking their thumbs up the a$$es of taxpayers.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Anybody remember the low emissions vehicles the city of Miami purchased then stashed at some off airport garage?

    I don’t get it but I’m sure somebody, somewhere, made a couple of nickels off of that and the same goes for this situation.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I hope all that back-patting was worth it.

  • avatar

    The vast majority of cop work isnt mad max with the last interceptor. I once learned from a NYSP that if he had a choice of Crown Vic, Charger or SS as cop car what would he want to do his shift in ? The answer was Charger because they are all the same as far as catching crooks but the charger was most comfortable fully suited up with belt and vest. I cant imagine the i3 is comfy with the full uniform and belt

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Having driven both the CVPI and the PI Charger (whatever it’s actually called), I disagree. The CVPI is much more suited to entering, exiting, and riding around with a belt and vest. You are correct about “alternatives” such as the i3.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Why are qualified police officers writing parking tickets? Surely that’s a job for a low paid council worker. That is the real waste of taxpayer’s money that I read here.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    If it is a plug in Prius I would imagine it would be used more often. I test drove the i3 and I totally hated how the ePedal braking the car as soon as I let go of the accelerator pedal.

    I don’t mind them leasing 10 to test it out first, but 100? That’s corruption scale.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I’m not surprised. Police departments and police officers are notoriously change resistant. They also like to thumb their noses at the non-police management/elected officials they report to.

    Look how long they clung to the antique Ford “Police Interceptor”.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      LE agencies were constantly trying other vehicles. They clung onto the CVPI because it was very well suited for standard patrol duty and the price was right.

      I don’t disagree about being change resistant though. Moving away from RWD was a bit of a hurdle. They eventually came to like FWD based AWD.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    How are the officials responsible for this kind of waste any better than a common thief who sticks up a 7-eleven?
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I don’t think people grasp the depth of the corruption on display here. The ties between BMW and Los Angeles government agencies have manifested in years of loyalty to unreliable BMW police bikes. Even the CHP couldn’t be bribed enough to stick with BMW’s junk, but LA resigned for another five years in 2014. The i3 is an almost sale proof embarrassment, but BMW needed to move some to meet their CARB zero emissions commitment. It looks like the taxpayers picked up the bill to meet the stupid requirement so BMW could keep their prices competitive on the cars people buy while the i3s sat in a lot becoming obsolete on top of already being incredibly silly. I guess you really do get the government you deserve.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Any proof of the BMW bikes being junk? Or is this “corruption” because it’s something that offends you? Some us may think that you seeing a brown California State Trooper on a Japanese motorcycle really irritated you.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I know some of the BMW 650 dual sports back when I rode were junk. My KLR650 was like a Soviet tractor…crude but generally ran and when it broke it was easily repairable. I know several folks that had the BMWs. Magnificent to ride but many a ride ended in a truck with said bike in the back. One dude I rode with routinely had to stop and “reboot” the fuel injection on his. They were known to have some serious issues. We aren’t talking old airheads here. But modern BMWs have had some hiccups.

          Not proof I guess, but certainly more factual than you calling the dude a racist for no reason. But I guess that’s America today…I don’t agree with you, so you are some sort of …cist.

        • 0 avatar
          Yurpean

          BMW bikes are THE standard for law enforcement worldwide, like 150 countries. They are so good and so well respected that even 200 PDs in the States have finally seen the light.

          Maneuverability, durability, speed, special frames and extension for weapon mounts, mount points for electronics, hardening, and and and.

          Their bikes are just amazing.

      • 0 avatar
        Yurpean

        As always, special snowflake ToddAtlas is wrong.

        BMW is the largest supplier of law enforcement motorbikes in the world. More than 200 LE agencies in the USA use BMW.

        BUT OF COURSE, YOU KNOW BETTER!

        Dude, does it hurt to be so incredibly stupid? Go and take a long walk off a short pier. Loser.

  • avatar
    Joebaldheadedgranny

    Love this. Like any big organization, the LAPD has numerous applications or “user cases” for vehicles. Many of these applications (parking enforcement, community affairs, process serving) are pretty well served by the EV, so what transpired here has little to do with the vehicle and more to do with the employees that are being asked to use them.
    Top guys like the mayor and chief sign off because the optics are great and the economics seem OK. The hitch happens at the Operational level- it starts with employees testing City resolve by ignoring the whole initiative and offering some resistance. When nothing happens in the way of consequence, the cars get parked and forgotten. I’ve this dozens of times in both private and public organizations.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • FreedMike: I’d say that if Toyota has something up its’ sleeve with batteries, then it makes even more...
  • MRF 95 T-Bird: My next door neighbor growing up outside of NYC had a 80 Omega in the same tan color. By around 1985...
  • brettc: Maine uses salt on major roads, but then they use a lot of sand as well on lower trafficked roads. I’m...
  • rpn453: The Micra is still available in Canada at an MSRP of CDN$10500 (US$7900). I’d be interested in test...
  • thegamper: Pure speculation on my part, but I would think as more luxury automakers get EV’s to market with...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States