LAPD's Green Fleet Goes Back On Sale

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

In 2014, Mayor Eric Garcetti wanted to show Los Angeles that he would take an active role in spearheading “environmental justice,” announcing several initiatives to combat the city’s notorious air pollution.

One of those efforts involved transitioning government-owned fleets towards battery power and hybridization. By the following year, the LAPD announced it was ready to consider contracts with various automakers ready to help provide the non-emergency administrative unit (which was new at the time) with a fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles.

BMW ultimately won out, resulting in a fleet of i3 hatchbacks — some of which were painted and given lights for traffic enforcement duties or other light police work (e.g. community outreach). The leasing agreement kicked off in 2016 and ultimately cost taxpayers over $10,200,000 when combined with the charging infrastructure that had to be installed to support them. But the department and the mayor started taking heat after the public learned the vehicles were hardly ever used for police business, resulting in a minor scandal.

Notifying the world that the program seems to have been a massive waste of resources didn’t change anything, however. Most vehicles saw little use through 2019 and many are now being sold by the dealership that initially leased them to the LAPD.

According to BMW Blog, California’s New Century BMW started selling the former fleet vehicles with exceptionally low millage for extremely low prices in August. While plenty seem to have already been taken, the site should continue to get a fresh supply as it helped the manufacturer supply the city with 100 cars per year.

From BMW Blog:

The dealership which provided the cars, New Century BMW, is now selling all of them as CPO models. Almost all of them have low miles, under 20,000 miles, and they’re all the same spec. All LAPD BMW i3 BEVs are in the Deka World trim, with the standard 19″ wheels and the older 22 kWh battery pack, despite newer models having been given bigger battery packs. So they only have about 81 miles of max range, at least when new.

If you want a used BMW i3, it might be difficult to pass up this offer. Despite the fact that they’re all base-spec cars that aren’t exactly stylish, though they do come in the desirable “Panda” color scheme. To offset the lack of choice, they are all quite cheap. All LAPD BMW i3 models can be had for under $20,000, which is a steal for a carbon fiber-tubbed BMW EV that retailed for almost $50,000 when new.

We wouldn’t go so far as to call this a stellar deal. Electric vehicles have evolved rather quickly, and the i3 is a good example of that. Old EVs are about as desirable as a vintage smartphone while internal-combustion vehicles tend to age more gracefully.

Still, if you are seriously committed to the environment, the i3 does have an impressively small carbon footprint, and buying a used one is actually better for the planet than splurging on a new electric. Just make sure it’s capable of handling your daily driving responsibilities. Lackluster range was cited as one of the chief reasons the cars were claimed not to be used by the LAPD with any regularity.

[Image: BMW Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Snakebit Snakebit on Sep 05, 2020

    Just as Domino's Pizza has special delivery vehicles, why don't the local Panda Express outlets make a deal for a number of them, now that Los Angeles and the nation are in largely take-out/delivery mode.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Sep 06, 2020

    Multiple problems with this deal: 1) They picked a loser, BMW i3 is a bad car for the range and you can see that they are just useless. They should have picked a plug in prius, fusion, or Tesla. But they didn't write the spec right and let this loser of a car in. Heck, did they even order REX? No wonder people don't want to drive it. 2) The whole government fleet is just wasteful no matter what cars you buy, a few thousand miles a year sound about right. 3) They should have split up the charging infrastructure project from the car leasing project, so they don't take the political hit for wasting money on infrastructure. 4) Nobody would have though Tesla pulled off the publicity stunt, but at least they don't look stupid picking an EV deal, just the wrong car company to deal with. Had they gotten Tesla people would use it more and they would have gotten quite a bit of residual back in the end. 5) Had oil price gone to the roof like 2007 they would have looked like a smart decision, but oil price tanked. This is how predicting a future with investment look like, it would look smart or stupid depends on which way the market goes.

  • Canam23 My old boss had a Seville STS with the Northstar that he would lend me when I wanted to drive from LA to Vegas. I have to admit that I loved it. Compared to my father-in-laws FWD Deville with the 4.1, the Seville was smooth, fast, comfortable and nice handling. It also was stingy on gas. Fortunately he never had a problem with his Northstar motor and I still think fondly of that car today.
  • V16 I'm sure you could copy and paste most of the "NO" responses to 1960's Japanese sourced vehicles.
  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
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