California Is, Once Again, Considering Tesla Police Vehicles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
california is once again considering tesla police vehicles

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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2 of 42 comments
  • IBx1 IBx1 on Jan 29, 2019

    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.

  • Jpolicke Jpolicke on Jan 29, 2019

    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.

  • KOKing I car-sat an A32 while its owner was out of the country, and the then whiz-bang VQ motor was great, but the rest of it wasn't any better than a XV10 or XV20. Definitely the start of its downward slide, unfortunately.
  • Norman Stansfield Why are leaf springs still a thing on this truck?
  • Syke The expected opening comments. Have had mine for two years now, the car has done exactly what I want out of it, and a little better. I'm quite happy with the car, haven't had to adjust my driving style or needs in the slightest, and . . . . oh, did a mention that I don't give a damn what today's price at the pump is?Probably going to go for a second one in the coming year, the wife's happy enough with mine that she's ready and willing to trade in the Nissan Kicks. Eventually, the not often used van will end up getting traded on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, basically ensuring that we don't use gas for anything except the occasional long trip.And the motorcycles.
  • Bobbysirhan I've never found the Allegro appealing before, but a few years of EV rollouts make it seem downright desirable.
  • Scoutdude I know that dealership. Way back when my friend's grandfather was that Turner that owned the Chrysler Plymouth International dealer, in MacPherson. Of course the International was dropped when they didn't deem the Scout reason enough to keep the franchise. I moved from there in late 1978 so it is possible I saw this running around town way back when.