In 2019, the city of Westport, Connecticut, added a new Tesla Model 3 patrol car to its fleet. Critics were a bit upset over the fact that the vehicle cost the town over $52,000 while a typical Ford Explorer police vehicle costs $37,000. New financial data shows that betting on the Tesla Model 3 as the choice for a police vehicle paid off, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars in comparison. The EV Club of Connecticut crunched the numbers. Let’s take a look.
In a nutshell, the Tesla Model 3 police vehicle brought large monetary savings. In fact, the purchase premium was recouped in just one year. Barry Kresche of the EV Club of Connecticut shared a four-year cost projection which shows that the savings are enough for the police department to buy another Tesla “at no cost.”
It should be noted that on the purchase of its pilot Tesla patrol vehicle, the city of Westport received pilot vehicle discounts, so there were no additional charges for added cameras, lights, a siren, and the weapons rack. These discounts amounted to a little over $14,000. However, even without the $14,000 discount, the financial savings are humongous. Barry also found out that one electric police vehicle saved the city 23.5 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Payback In Year One
Barry noted his analysis of all of the data regarding the purchase, customization, and operating expense all came from the Westport Police, and that at his request, the Town of Westport audited his analysis and confirmed the accuracy of the data.
The analysis is a sharp reality-based response to critics who scoffed at the Model 3 purchase (saying things like, “$52,000 — what a joke“). This shows that although the Tesla is a premium vehicle, it comes at an affordable cost. The Town of Westport made an investment, and in the first year, that investment paid off. By the 4th year, there should be enough savings for the city to buy a new Tesla police vehicle just using the savings from not buying a Ford Explorer.
The data that Barry analyzed and that the Town of Westport confirmed goes over three vehicles — the pilot Tesla Model 3, a future or next Tesla, and the typical Ford Explorer police vehicle that many cities across the nation use.
For the next Tesla, this is a second hypothetical vehicle where he doesn’t count the one-time discounts. This gives a fair comparison between what a Tesla Model 3 would cost without the discounts and the Ford Explorer’s cost.
The pilot Tesla was the long-range, all-wheel drive, performance version, and the department did not purchase full-self driving. This was because the insurer would not underwrite it.
In the graph below, you have the Tesla Model 3 pilot, the next Tesla Model 3, and the conventional Ford Explorer vehicle.
The largest single item in the customization of a Tesla patrol car is the license plate reader. Due to technology that is native to a Tesla, there was a savings of $10,000 here. For the Ford Explorer, the cost of the license plate reader is $18,000. It should be noted that the pilot Model 3 was not outfitted with a prisoner transport cage/partition since that wasn’t needed for this vehicle’s duties. However, Barry included the cost in the next Tesla’s cost for comparison.
There were two items that applied only to the Model 3. One was a spare tire for $800 and the other was a charging station that cost $1,000 for the hardware and installation. The Ford Explorer comes with a spare tire.
The pilot Model 3 had a $24,600 lower cost of customization due especially to pilot-vehicle discounts. The next Model 3, priced without the discounts, still has a lower cost for customization than the Ford Explorer — by $8,200 — due to the license plate reader savings.
Ongoing Costs & Service Life
The costs, which were calculated based on being driven 23,060 miles in a year, include more than just fuel. Although fuel is a given, there are other ongoing regular maintenance items that are included in Barry’s data. For both vehicles, these are brakes and tires. Ford’s brakes are serviced at four times the frequency of Tesla’s. For tires, the Ford’s were replaced twice the number of times the Tesla’s were. The same type of tires are used for each vehicle, yet the police noticed something different about the tires on the Tesla — they held up better on the Tesla. The police attributed this to a superior suspension.
Since the Ford is an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, it had well more maintenance costs than the Tesla did, and these included oil and filter changes, transmission servicing, its catalytic converter, a water pump, spark plugs, and the alternator. The data also showed that using electricity for the Tesla cost 60% less than using gas for the 2020 model year Ford. Also, this is a Model 3 that doesn’t have the newly installed heat pumps that reduce energy consumption in cold weather.
As for the service life, it’s been documented that Ford Explorers have a lifespan of four years as police vehicles.
Barry noted that based on what the police have seen to date, they think the Tesla will have a six-year service life. For this, costs are calculated on both a cash and amortized basis.
In the chart above, you can see the total cost of each of the vehicles — the pilot Tesla, a future Tesla, and the Ford Explorer — with subtotals for three categories over four years. The categories are: purchase, customization, and ongoing.
The graph shows the costs on a cash basis and the two blue bands represent the purchase and customization costs — these expenses do not change for the four-year period. The ongoing costs, represented by the orange band, only increase each year as more fuel is used and more additional maintenance items are performed. As you can see, it costs the police department more to utilize the Ford Explorer than it does the Tesla or even a future next Tesla over a period of time.
The above chart is a summary of the categories into a grand total that displays the four-year cost trend for each vehicle. It’s still on a cash basis and it ties to the totals in the category chart.
Barry noted that none of the charts to this point have taken service life into account, and that even on a cash basis, the costs for the Tesla vehicles are much lower. The chart above uses the same category format but divides the purchase and customization costs by the number of years in the service life of each vehicle. So, in this case, the fixed costs increment upwards each year.
This shows the total costs for each vehicle for each year. You can see the difference between the Teslas and the Ford Explorer. This is because, after four years, only two-thirds of the Tesla purchase and customization costs are amortized. However, in year four, the cost for the Ford is the same as it appears two charts above because the vehicle has been fully amortized at that point.
The above chart shows the differences even clearer. However, Barry has done the math on the savings for anyone who is curious to know the details. The two charts below show the savings for the pilot Tesla and the savings for a future Tesla. Each chart shows a side-by-side comparison of the savings on a cash and an amortized basis.
The pilot Tesla will have generated a savings of $63,000 after four years on an amortized basis. The Westport Police Department’s next Tesla vehicle will more than break even on a cash basis, with an amortized basis of $52,000, which is the exact cost of the original purchase price of the initial Tesla Model 3 that the police department bought.
It should be noted that before I wrote this, I chatted with Barry and several members of the EV Club of Connecticut along with William Cross from the Tesla Owners Club of Connecticut. Barry shared a breakdown of the charts for us, and his work here is really detailed, thorough, and informative. It also shows just how valuable Teslas are as police vehicles as well as personal vehicles. The best part of this isn’t the monetary savings — it’s the fact that these vehicles are cleaner and better for the environment. If you would like to read Barry’s full analysis, click here.