By on January 28, 2019

Ever since Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, it’s become much harder to watch out for cops. Initially, you just had to keep tabs on any Dodge Charger in dark paint, but that quickly evolved into drivers becoming suspicious of every monochrome Explorer, Taurus, Durango, Tahoe, or Fusion Hybrid on the road as law enforcement began adopting the models for official use.

A police department in Fremont, California has added a Tesla that list, garnering tons of media attention in the process. However, after looking into the story, it seems Fremont is only testing a single, second-hand Tesla Model S 85D it purchased a year ago to see if the model is fit for service. Considering this is the same city where Tesla manufactures the vehicle, one would think the Fremont Police could have worked out some kind of deal with the factory. However, what interests us — and probably the department — most is figuring whether or not the 2014 Model S can actually hack it beneath the thin blue line. 

California has a serious obsession with electric vehicles, allowing the opportunity for a brief preamble on the usefulness of electric cop cars. In January of 2018, the LAPD garnered criticism for leaving its multi-million-dollar fleet of BMW i3s mostly idle. Many claimed the limited range made personnel reluctant to use the vehicles for anything other than trips to the courthouse or parking enforcement.

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.”

Before that, the LAPD considered fielding Teslas and even had a pilot program in the works to evaluate the Model S as a squad car. That ended with the department claiming that, despite its unparalleled speed, the electric sedan was simply too costly to implement.

What makes Fremont’s Tesla so different? Well, for starters, it’s used. Rather than snag a sparkly new Model S from the factory, the department spent the past year outfitting a used one for active duty evaluation.

From the Fremont Police:

The pilot team purchased a used 2014 Tesla Model S 85 in January 2018 for $61,478.50 (including taxes and fees) to replace a 2007 Dodge Charger which was scheduled to be taken out of service due to age. The Tesla is the only electric vehicle that met specifications for size, performance, battery range, and safety, all required for a fully deployable patrol vehicle. Tesla electric vehicles are manufactured locally in Fremont.

Since purchasing the vehicle, the Police Department has been working with vendors to install the standard police equipment such as the light bar, push bumper, and ballistic barriers. The total invoiced costs for modifications to date are $4,447 and are expected to increase as final invoices come in. In comparison, a Ford Explorer with the police package costs approximately $40,000 with additional modification costs that are comparable to the Tesla. The initial buildup cost of the Tesla is slightly higher than that of a Ford due to the necessary customizations.

However, according to a pdf provided by the City of Fremont and its police department, law enforcement seems to believe that the EV will make up the difference after 90,000 miles of service. Due to the Tesla having fewer moving parts, it believes the EV won’t suffer as much routine maintenance — resulting in less downtime and fewer repair bills. Chuck in its electric powertrain, and Fremont can also claim the Model S would save the department thousands of dollars in fuel while also producing one-tenth the carbon dioxide of a gas-powered Ford Police Interceptor Utility after five years.

The police estimate the cost of gas over a five-year period for the police Ford Explorer at approximately $32,000, with maintenance estimated to be around $15,000. Meanwhile, it puts the Tesla’s energy bill at around $5,000, with less than $4,000 in maintenance — which feels a little unrealistic.

“The electric patrol vehicle pilot program is an extension of the City’s clean technology and smart city initiatives to help make Fremont a more sustainable community,” said Fremont Police Captain Sean Washington. “Given that Fremont Police vehicle fleet is responsible for a total of 980 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, this program has the potential to eliminate 10 percent of all municipal greenhouse gas emissions.”

To support plug-in vehicles, the city’s police complex installed 872 kW of solar carport structures onsite and three additional charging stations. The hope here is that, once the department adopts more EVs, it’ll already have a place for them.

This isn’t a case of love at first sight. While Fremont wants to appear green and ready to embrace the model, questions exist as to how its electric powertrain will cope with the kind of abuse officers will no doubt inflict on it. There are also concerns regarding the EV’s range. While the department says most of its patrol vehicles won’t travel than 70 miles per day, it’s not sure if the Model S can manage that distance, considering a patrol vehicle’s average day: sitting idle while running accessories followed by routine bouts of very aggressive driving.

The City of Fremont says the pilot program team will assess the Model S’ ability to perform the necessary duties of a police car while also monitoring its durability, effective range, and cost over time. It will also provide photos and information showing how the car holds up once fully operational and engaged in active patrol.

[Image: Fremont Police]

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42 Comments on “California Is, Once Again, Considering Tesla Police Vehicles...”

  • avatar

    DO IT!

    “Tesla’s energy bill at around $5,000, with less than $4,000 in maintenance”

    Even double those figures its still a savings, however any monies saved are likely lost in the purchase price.


    “most is figuring whether or not the 2014 Model S can actually hack it beneath the thin blue line.”

    2014? Typo?

  • avatar

    Click-bait headline. One city, in the Bay Area, with a fat tax base, is considering putting a used Model S into police service.


    • 0 avatar

      Yup. That about sums it up.

      I assume police crash a lot of vehicles in the line of duty. Isn’t Tesla exceedingly expensive to repair due to parts issues, design issues, and the fact that repair shops don’t want to electrocute themselves?

  • avatar

    Would make a perfect CHP/ State Police car. Lots of iding combined with sudden burst of speed.

    In terms of maintenance – just running the AC compressor and a radar gun involves a lot less than running an ICE (oil pump, water pump. Alternator, accessory belt, etc.) along with the AC compressor and radar gun.

    • 0 avatar

      Do a little research and see how many miles per day a CHP cruiser racks up during each shift.

      During his 12 years with the CHP my son was issued three cruisers because of fair wear and tear safety issues. Like wore out.

      His old cruiser, and other retired cruisers, were put on the bidding block and sold to taxi companies or individuals.

      Even with the largest capacity battery, no Tesla can make it through a standard CHP shift and not run out of juice.

  • avatar

    Unless Fremont bought the most expensive version of the Model S, the dealer overcharged them by several thousand dollars. A realistic price for a lesser model would have been something around $50k, not $60k+. Buying used was a good way to evaluate a vehicle well along in its life.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah it seems like the price is a little high, though the details are a little thin as to the mileage and spec. One would think they would select a base model and not one with a lot of extras.

      I agree that a used one isn’t a bad idea to get a better idea of how it ages.

  • avatar

    Locals need to keep an eye out for this one to see if all they do with it is use it for “community relations.”

  • avatar

    I realize this is right up there with using asset forfeiture to create a Porsche police car in my super-corrupt home town, but it does raise the issue of whether or not the tire bill would make up for the fuel savings. Tesla tires cost two to three times as much as the best consumer tires in common police car sizes, and they last half as long. That’s based on tirerack information. The hick hamlet of hate the I came from buys its cop car tires from the same place that I bought tires from for my customers last year. Every now and then I would look up price and availability for a size tire that is shared with a police car. There would always be sets of Firestone Firehawk GT Pursuit tires in stock for the local PD, priced at $400 a piece in sizes where the best Michelins were under $200 a tire. What would a 21 inch Tesla pursuit tire cost? More than a year’s worth of fuel? It must be nice to ‘earn’ your money by taking from productive members of society at gunpoint. It certainly removes any concerns about value.

    • 0 avatar

      I just looked at Discount Tire for tires for a base Model S (245/35-R21), and they run from the Chinese-made Nankang AS-1 ($125 each) to the Pirelli P Zero ($484 each) for regular tires, or for winter, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8 ($307 each), up to the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 ($541 each).

      • 0 avatar

        The cop cars here use specific tires, and they cost double what the best consumer tires cost. Tesla used to offer a 19 inch size for the Model S, which makes more sense for patrol use than a low profile 21 inch tire, but would still be many hundreds a piece by the time Firestone gins up a limited production Pursuit special tire application.

    • 0 avatar

      I doubt they’d continue with the stock 21″ rims. Part of the Crown Vic’s success was being able to hop curbs and shrug it off. Tesla wheels appear to be 5×120 +40 with a 64.1mm centerbore. A lot of slightly older BMW used 5×120 with comparable offset, but with a bigger bore. I don’t know if Tesla designed to require hub-centric mounting (in which case the solution is $20 of hub rings) or lug-centric, but either way there are options to increase sidewall height and decrease tire costs. Corvette wheels are 5×120.65, close enough in boltpattern, not sure about offset.

      I’m sorry to hear you live in a third-world dictatorship run by armed gangs. Maybe the US should airlift a few kilotons of freedom your way? Or maybe if Trump doesn’t get to build his wall, you can escape to this land of government transparency and rule of law, where things like outright police theft never happen.

  • avatar

    Verrrry Interesting. I look forward to following the progress of this experiment.

  • avatar

    I am sure California and it cities like L.A. and SF have the police budget for $130K+ Tesla S.

  • avatar

    Slightly more? A 4-5 year old Tesla with upfit will be nearly 2:1 in cost compared to a brand new comparable pursuit unit.

    Ok as a one off vanity piece, but not sustainable fleet-wide.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, load up the police vehicles with all of the 2014 Teslas!

      But keep the Explorers to be able to put out the spike strips as the used Teslas run out of battery power.

      This is truly amusing.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re only looking at upfront costs.

      The operating costs of an EV should be much lower, leading to a similar total cost over several years.

      But EVs are new and there isn’t a lot of data on EVs on the police duty cycle. So, they really do need to try it to see if the numbers match the prediction.

      • 0 avatar

        No police fleet manager is going to be sourcing 4 to 5 year old vehicles reliably for their fleet. The only reasonable comparison is new to new, where an upfit Model S would represent at least a $60k premium. It’s unlikely the Tesla’s operating costs will be lower, ever.

        • 0 avatar

          When a vehicle has changed as little as the Model S has over the last four years, as a proof-of-concept tester, buying an older one used with new software is much more effective than buying one new at nearly twice the price. Considering that this is a city patrol car and NOT California Highway Patrol, the typical usage will be far lower in road miles but possibly higher in idling time, which is where most ICE patrol cars tend to burn the most gas. sitting for 2, 4, 8 or more hours at a construction site or on a general police call means that the ICE’s engine is doing nothing BUT powering the electronics and unnecessarily wasting fuel. And you can’t shut down the ICE because it’s needed to keep the battery charged as all those electronics would drain the typical lead-acid battery in just an hour or two. Conversely, the battery in a BEV could power those electronics probably for days before draining the battery. This makes for a huge fuel savings for the department and probably a 75% drop in fuel costs alone, not even considering the pollutants the ICE emits while idling.

          And we can be fairly sure that the ICE patrol cars aren’t running 4-cylinder hybrid engines, so they’re probably running on a mid-grade or higher fuel–closer to 97 Octane than 87. As such, the fuel savings may be even higher than when you compare to consumer vehicles.

          • 0 avatar

            Vulpine, where did you find a college with a degree program in Apologia?

          • 0 avatar

            The same place you got your degree in insults, jatz. At least I understand the reasoning behind such an experiment; why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a one-off if you don’t know the concept will even work?

            That’s not apologizing, that’s simple, although obviously not “common” sense.

  • avatar

    Hah, that whole i3 fiasco. I love how arrogant public servants are about pissing tax dollars into the wind.

  • avatar

    I am not worry if they do this. They will now spend more time charging than chasing

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “Considering this is the same city where Tesla manufactures the vehicle, one would think the Fremont Police could have worked out some kind of deal”

    –Nah. Elon smoking that doob ruined chances of that.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see how long these would withstand the mean streets of New York City at the unkind hands of the NYPD. They wouldn’t drive it like they stole it, but would drive it like they didn’t pay their own coin for it. That would be as close to service in Baghdad as we’ll see.

  • avatar

    Better keep it far away from fire trucks.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    1. They paid too much. The price should have been around $40-45k.

    2. “Idling” EVs draw hardly any power, unless it’s winter. The pleasant Fremont climate is ideal for this car, and they should have no trouble getting a solid day’s use without recharging it.

    • 0 avatar

      But police is also running all sorts of equipment in their cars that also sucks extra energy

      • 0 avatar

        Do some police vehicles have an extra battery onboard to run all the equipment? I’d think even at idle, you’re still going to need a beefy alternator to be able to run things for more than a few hours without a second battery.

        • 0 avatar

          It depends on the car, the last of the Crown Vics had a single battery and a 220a alternators that at the police cars higher idle speed would put out 120a. One thing that has changed since then is that much of the lighting is now LED and full incandescent lighting was a significant load. I think the Hybrid Responder (Fusion) is set up for 150a of 12V power which is independent from engine speed so the equivalent of a much larger alternator and their factory lighting options are all LED.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    “It’s got a cop motor, cop battery, cop steering…”

  • avatar

    What a waste of money. Just buy a fleet of Dodge Durangos or Chargers and call it a day.

    Heck, the Dodge Journey and Grand Caravan are a steal and are capable for day-to-day patrol use. PDs should be looking at those. Might as well, can’t be any worse than the FWD Explorers. The 3.6 and 62TE are solid and will do just fine.

  • avatar

    I was curious to know the average daily mileage and glad to see that figure reported. Accessories like a power point for computers likely won’t draw that much power and HVAC won’t need as much either, since the area’s climate is temperate. Sounds like a win-win, supporting local manufacturing and cutting operating costs, but I want to see how they hold up to being used as bumper cars.

  • avatar

    If they could integrate the police computer with the Tesla dash screen they might have something. I haven’t heard anything about how good Tesla seats are for all day use.

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