Fremont Police Tests All-Electric Vehicle for Patrol

By Ilene Eng

A city in Northern California has joined the growing trend to replace gas-emitting cars with all-electric cars for patrol.

On March 6, the Fremont Police Department introduced a new vehicle to their line of duty: a Tesla Model S. It is part of a pilot program to test whether or not an all-electric car can be a reliable patrol car.

“What we’re looking for is to determine whether or not an all-electric vehicle is a viable option for police operations,” Sean Washington, patrol captain for Fremont Police Department. “And so, we’re going to have data like how much charge the vehicle has at the beginning of the shift and at the end of the shift. The performance, the durability…all those things we’re really testing to see is it a viable option as we move forward into the future.”

The 2014 Tesla Model S was purchased used, and it took about a year to customize the vehicle with the necessary equipment for the call of duty. Some of the modifications include rear and headlight flashers, a WatchGuard vehicle camera, a center equipment console, a prisoner partition and seat, and a Panasonic mobile digital computer.

It was bought with money reserved for replacing one of their older patrol vehicles.

“The cost was about $61,000 for the Tesla, which is about $20,000 more than our typical patrol vehicle. However, we estimate that we spend between $30,000 and $35,000 on fuel for our conventional vehicles. So if you start to do the math, it starts to make a lot of sense why the Tesla might be [an] economical benefit to the city going forward,” said Washington.

“We wanted that to be fiscally responsible for taxpayer dollars. And so, what we did, is we took money already earmarked for replacement vehicle. We were going to replace one of our older patrol vehicles, which typically cost about $40,000 or so. And instead of buying a traditional police car, we bought a Tesla with those funds.”

Inside the customized Tesla Model S displayed to the public on March 6, 2019. (Tom Yu/NTD)

“The electric car has much less moving parts, no oil, no engine, no piston, no valve, no alternator and all that, so there’ll be much less repair maintenance and the electric car will consume less energy, so there will be a huge fuel savings going to electric,” said Mark Collins, fleet maintenance manager for the city of Fremont.

It program started as a city policy to find cleaner energy sources that would be cost-efficient. The city started using hybrid vehicles like Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion in 2009. This is the first time it has opted for an all-electric to add to its patrol fleet.

Fremont is not the first city to test the idea. In 2016, the Los Angeles Police Department chose a BMW after months of testing. Hyattsville, Maryland also tested a few electric cars, including a Chevrolet Bolt.

The Tesla Model S patrol car was given a test run on March 6, 2019. (Tom Yu/NTD)

What about the safety measures?

“We have a front push bumper so it’s well protected from the front; the back is well protected by the body. The side impact is where it might damage the batteries where it might have a fire,” said Collins.

“We’re very happy with the safety features that are on the vehicle, the performance, the size, the durability, and also the capacity of the battery. So all those things brought us to this point where we chose the Tesla Model S as our vehicle for our pilot program,” said Washington.

The new vehicle is expected to serve the community starting March 15.

NTD News, Fremont, California