What Can Pricey Tesla and BMW Electric Vehicles Teach the LAPD?

Source: BMW/Danny Moloshok/Newscast

Have you heard the one about the cop car that cost $105,000? You may see one soon being driven by an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department, so it isn’t a punch line by any means. In fact, even pricey electric vehicles from Tesla and BMW can teach city fleet managers about cutting municipal waste and making operations greener (not to mention quieter). The LAPD is about to see how these two cars and hundreds of other EVs hold up to the rigors of police work.

At a September 11 press conference, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck (a 1970s Tom Selleck ringer, according to some) announced they would have a Tesla Model S P85D ($105,000) and BMW i3 ($42,400) on loan from the automakers for the next year. In addition, LA will lease 160 pure electric vehicles and 128 plug-in hybrids to handle municipal services.

Tesla LAPD Twitter
Source: LAPD/Twitter

Had LA paid for it, the i3 would cost below $35,000 before California incentives, bringing it close to the cost of a standard police cruiser. Factor in the $5,000 in fuel savings over five years compared to a car running at 24 miles per gallon and it actually would be a reasonable buy. (Presumably, the 288 models LA will lease have much lower sticker prices.)

The city’s EV binge is a continuation of policies laid out in Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn that will make 50% of municipal vehicle purchases electric by 2017. In a city with so many vehicles spewing smoke from tailpipes every day, these initiatives are essential for controlling air quality standards, but Garcetti and Chief Beck can sell this policy to Angelenos in other ways.

For starters, the city says it will cut vehicle operating costs by 41% by going electric ($0.21 per mile in EVs versus $0.37 in gas cars). That will free up resources to invest in infrastructure improvements in various municipal agencies. Impacts on the quality of life in LA may be more subtle but should be just as appealing to Angelenos.

Source: BMW/Danny Moloshok/Newscast

The silent operation of pure electric vehicles makes patrolling cop cars less offensive to city residents late at night and early in the day. Likewise, any emissions from electricity generation stay out of the local environment and remain at the site of area power plants. So Angelenos can’t blame the noise or poor air quality on the cops.

As for police work, the LAPD has several advantages when turning to a BMW i3, the most economical car on the U.S. market at 137 miles per gallon equivalent in city driving. The small frame and tight steering capabilities of the i3 make it a smarter vehicle for handling traffic violations and similar city patrols. Being able to sneak up on perpetrators is an edge the LAPD has already enjoyed with electric motorcycles and electric scooters in the fleet.

For its part, Tesla’s wicked Model S P85D offers 713 pounds-feet of torque and performance worthy of its price tag. Speeding perps in any type of car will have a hard time outracing a P85D that can sprint to 60 miles in 3.1 seconds and cover a quarter-mile in under 11 seconds. It’s not even fair.

There is likely no police force that can justify expensing a six-figure cruiser for its fleet, but future reductions in battery costs may allow Tesla to provide municipalities with cop cars that deliver fierce acceleration for less. Imagine what fleet sales could do for a company currently focused on the luxury market. (Or recall what the fleet business has done for Detroit automakers.)

With so many available charging stations around the city and such a clean grid, Los Angeles is also the ideal place to manage an electric vehicle fleet. The city is already sold on plug-ins for administrative services, detective work, and other low-impact police duties. A pricey Tesla and BMW should serve as a peek into the future where EVs will be the only cars the force needs. In the meantime, the Nissan Leaf ($21,510 post-incentive) and Ford Focus Electric ($21,670) can serve as the workhorses.

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY