A California police department has turned a used Tesla into a patrol car, hoping to cut the city’s carbon footprint — and the high-end, low-emissions vehicle may be cheaper than a conventional squad car in the long-run, according to police.
Police in Fremont, the East Bay city where Tesla manufactures vehicles and employs more than 10,000 workers, announced in a news release Wednesday that it will soon roll out the patrol vehicle as part of a pilot program testing if electric vehicles can meet law enforcement demands.
“We’ll know within six months to a year, either yes or no,” Fremont Police Capt. Sean Washington said, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The city bought the 2014 Tesla Model S 85 about a year ago for $61,478.50 as a replacement for a 2007 Dodge Charger, which the department was retiring, police said. Since then, the department has spent $4,447 on a light bar, ballistic barrier, push bumper and other modifications to make the vehicle road-ready, according to the news release.
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Police said the car was “the only electric vehicle that met specifications for size, performance, battery range, and safety” needed in a fully-functional patrol car. Those requirements include hard on and off braking and acceleration, as well as good steering and the ability to drive 40 to 70 miles daily, the department said. The Tesla can drive 265 miles on one charge, according to Fremont police.
But the department did list a few possible concerns: The Tesla has small seats in the front, limited room for equipment and takes about an hour to recharge.
Buying a Ford Explorer to use as a patrol vehicle would cost $40,000, and require add-ons roughly as expensive as what police spent for the Tesla, the department said. But in just five years of use an Explorer would guzzle about $32,000 in gasoline and require $15,000 in maintenance, while a Tesla doesn’t need gas and could have fewer mechanical problems, according to the department.
Fremont’s goal is to cut its greenhouse emissions 25 percent from 2005 levels by next year — and for that to happen, police have to play a role, the department said.
“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,” Washington said in a statement.
Another feature of Teslas is how quiet they are: At low speeds, electric vehicles “can barely be heard,” which cuts noise pollution while creating safety concerns for walkers and bicyclists, The Guardian reports.
Fremont police already have three charging stations and a 872 kW solar power structure, which means every gas-powered vehicle swapped out with an electric one “will completely zero out the greenhouse gas emissions associated with that vehicle’s operation,” the news release said.
Police said they’ll watch closely to keep track of the Tesla’s “performance, durability, range, costs, and unknowns that will only be fully understood once the pilot test is completed and the results are evaluated.”
Across the United States, few police departments have seriously committed to electric vehicles. Los Angeles police bought a multimillion-dollar fleet of electric BMWs, but as of January 2018, they were barely used at all, CBS Los Angeles reported.
Police in Hyattsville, Maryland — just outside Washington, D.C. — have had a Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle since 2017 that they use for patrol, according to the city website. Denver police got a Tesla back in 2017, but it’s used for outreach and community events, the department said in a video announcing its “baby” Tesla.
“When the kids see them, they’re so amazed by them,” Denver police spokesperson Jay Casillas said of the electric vehicle, according to 9 News. “It makes them come talk to us and then they don’t feel as scared of us anymore.”
Police in Fremont said the Tesla won’t be in their hands “for a few weeks,” SFGate reports.
Fremont police said they have been using hybrid vehicles, such as Toyota Priuses and Ford Fusions , since 2009. The police chief, captains and administrative lieutenants have all been driving hybrid cars since last year.