Will Police Drive Teslas?

Tesla has a real knack for surprising industry analysts. Apparently the company is now in hot pursuit of a new market: cop cars.

The fully electric vehicle manufacturer is currently being tested for use by the Los Angeles Police Department, an experiment that is being put to the test in the United States’ second-largest city. LA has been trying out the cars for almost a year now, and the agency is currently in possession of two Model S P85D loaner cars.

p tesl“Tesla definitely stepped up and gave us the Model S to do some evaluation with them,” explained LAPD Police Administrator Vartan Yegiyan. According to Yegiyan, Tesla is working with LA’s police department “to assess the vehicle’s performance in our environment and to learn what are the drawbacks and positives of this type of vehicle in our fleet operation. Not only on the regular transportation side, but also the future in the high-pursuit-rated vehicle arena.”

Tesla itself has been surprisingly silent about the matter, perhaps waiting for more substantial news to comment.

While the LAPD hasn’t completely ruled out using Teslas as a future option, it’s not sold on buying a fleet of the cars anytime soon.

“Is it practical now? No,” Yegiyan stated clearly. But he did add that over “the next three to five years… not only will the industry push toward electrification, but prices will drop on vehicles. More models will be coming out, and the electricity and electrical grid will become more robust, and more charging stations will be available. While that’s occurring we’ll be in the space learning and contributing to the process.”

Considering the current Tesla Model S P85D has a suggested retail price of around $100,000, making such a hefty investment in a luxury vehicle to be used by police officers would perhaps be difficult to justify. After all, Ford’s Explorer-based Police Interceptor SUV, the current top-selling police model in America, has a MSRP of about $30,000. Though that can rise to around $45,000 to $50,000 after the vehicle has had the LAPD’s police equipment installed, outfitting a Tesla with the same equipment would also cost a pretty penny.

bmw i3The LAPD is also testing an all-electric BMW i3 for its police duties. The i3 costs around $43,000 and may be a more doable option in terms of the department purchasing fast, all-electric vehicles. The department has also experimented with and purchased over 20 electric scooters and about half a dozen electric motorcycles used by patrol officers. These are all attempts to change public transportation to combat climate change.

“In California, there’s pressure from above and there’s also a desire on the part of the electric vehicle manufacturers to get their vehicles out there,” stated Tom Libby, analyst for IHS Automotive. He stated that generally, however, using luxury-priced Tesla Model S for police or city gain “doesn’t make any sense from a budget standpoint.”

Ford, of course, is not crazy about the idea either.

“We are the leader in law enforcement, and we intend to remain the leader,” stated Randy Freiburger, Ford police and ambulance fleet supervisor.

There are other issues to keep in mind in terms of incorporating electric vehicles into police and public emergency use. For example, natural disasters that cause charging stations to go down could prove especially debilitating given a city’s reliance on electricity to power automobiles.

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