In March 2019, the Fremont Police Department began testing a Tesla Model S 85 that was customized for patrol operations. Testing ended one year later, and yesterday, the Fremont Police Department (PD) released the test results and emailed them over to CleanTechnica (and surely other media outlets).
Results found that the vehicle exceeded performance and operational objectives while also taking on the challenges of police use. The vehicle required minimal maintenance and was proven to be cost-effective when the overall cost of the vehicle — with maintenance and fuel savings included — was factored into the equation.
The Tesla Model S 85 had lower average annual maintenance downtime — just under 40 days compared with 66 days for the Ford Patrol Police Vehicle (PPV). It also had zero operational CO2 emissions while the Ford PPV had 42,198 points of CO2 emissions annually.
Fremont’s Police Captain, Sean Washington, spoke about how encouraging the results were. “The final results from the one-year Electric Patrol Vehicle Pilot Program have been encouraging as the City of Fremont continues to look for cost-effective ways to help make Fremont more sustainable. With an average of 27 fewer days of downtime per year, a savings of $2,147 in the total annual cost of energy/fuel, maintenance, and repair, and no operational carbon dioxide emissions, the pilot program results have prompted Fremont PD to move forward with plans to expand its fleet of electric patrol vehicle alternatives.”
The Fremont Police Department acquired two out of the three additional electric/hybrid patrol vehicles it budgeted for the last two fiscal years. The vehicles are a 2020 Tesla Model Y purchased for $57,126.83 and a 2021 Ford Hybrid Explorer purchased for $48,223. The city aims to mitigate the increased amount of time that the Fremont PD’s gas-powered vehicles are out of service — which results in a consistent and severe shortage of usable patrol vehicles — via these presumably more reliable models.
The full report provided more details in the following areas:
- Range and charging.
- Fuel Costs and Sustainability.
- Resale value.
- Expected Lifespan.
I’ll briefly explore each of them.
The vehicle “met or exceeded” expectations and often demonstrated superior performance when compared to gas-powered police vehicles. Police officers reported an enhanced feeling of safety and control when responding to emergency calls for service, due to the vehicle’s performance. Officers also mentioned that anxiety and stress were reduced when using the vehicle to respond to calls, and this was due to fewer engine noises. They also noticed that the radio communications were improved due to the lack of background engine noises.
Fuel Costs & Sustainability
The report noted that over the course of the one-year pilot program, the vehicle reduced the cost of fuel that would have been required for a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) police vehicle by $4097. Even though it was just one vehicle out of a fleet of over 60, the Tesla reduced greenhouse gas emissions produced annually by the department by a notable amount — imagine an entire police force with nothing but EVs. The Tesla Model S 85 also helped the City of Fremont meet its goals to reduce 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieve its long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.
Resale Value of the Model S
The total cost of ownership over a five-year period for the vehicle was calculated at $132,758 compared to the Ford Utility Interceptor at $115,740. The cost of the Tesla factored in upfront costs such as the purchase price, modifications, miles driven, fuel and energy costs, and maintenance costs. However, the actual total cost of ownership for the Tesla is fully expected to decrease over time as more data is collected and the sample period is extended. The report also noted that the total cost of ownership will decrease if the vehicle is to exceed five years of service as projected. Why?
The report emphasized that the Tesla Model S 85 appeared to hold its value twice as well as the average ICE vehicle — based on a City of Fremont Municipal Fleet Electrification study published back in May. Another study calculated that the average five-year depreciation of a Tesla Model S 85 is 61.7%, and possibly 80% after seven years. If you add in the additional age and the hard driving that police vehicles do, this decreases the total cost of ownership by a range of $12,000–13,000. The report noted that the potential higher resale value may reduce the total cost of ownership to ICE vehicles, especially if those vehicles are Tesla models or other long-range EVs.
Range & Charging
The report noted that the vehicle averaged 50% power usage during a typical patrol shift, which is 11 hours. The vehicle’s range of 265 miles easily accommodated the 40–70 mile range that patrol vehicles normally drove on a daily average and provided confidence in the ability to deploy an EV with a similar range for a standard 11-hour patrol shift. EV technology was reasonably managed by utilizing available on-campus charging stations. The Fremont Police Department also has charging infrastructure in place that supports additional electric police vehicles, but capacity will be limited until the police department is able to expand its charging stations.
The vehicle was able to take on the rigorous operational demands that are associated with policing a mid-sized city. The city’s fleet maintenance staff reported a significant reduction in repairs, maintenance, and downtime over the course of one year when compared to current ICE police vehicles. Thanks to this reduction, the Model S was able to remain in service more consistently — 27 more days than a conventional police patrol vehicle. The Fremont PD expects the Tesla’s average annual maintenance and repair costs to decrease over time as more data is available and the sample period is extended by roughly 50%, or around $2,910.
The report stated that initial data indicated that the reduced maintenance needs of the vehicle will likely result in an expected lifespan of longer than five years. However, this assumption is still in the process of being proven through real-world application.
There were some challenges noted in the report, as well. One challenge was the low ground clearance that reduced the vehicle’s ability to traverse some types of terrain. Drivers taller than 6 feet noted that the position of the vehicle’s B pillar made it more difficult to enter and exit the car when compared to traditional Ford SUV police vehicles. The charging time often required two to four hours of charging to reach a full charge when the battery power was at 50% or less, which made it harder to redeploy the vehicle rapidly between consecutive patrol shifts. The rear seat prisoner barrier also posed a challenge for larger prisoners due to the limited space.
The report ends with a fun sequence of pictures of Fremont police vehicles from several decades ago to today’s Tesla Model S 85.
Images courtesy Fremont Police Department