Electric vehicles are more prevalent than ever, and more are on the way. Tesla began delivering the first Model S sedans ten years ago. Prior to that time in 2012, Tesla had delivered about 2,250 Tesla Roadsters, an all-electric 2-seater. Even then, the Roadster defied expectations of what an electric vehicle could do with its far greater range and quick acceleration. The Model S went further by demonstrating a large EV sedan could have plenty of interior passenger space, storage areas, range, speed, and high safety standards. Well over 260,000 Model S sedans have been sold so far. The success of the Model S set the stage for the Model 3, a smaller, less expensive sedan. Tesla has sold over one million Model 3 sedans, which brings us to the Model Y, a more robust and more expensive electric sedan that was launched after the Model 3. (The Model Y is less costly than a new Model S.)
Even with Tesla’s great success in designing, manufacturing and selling electric vehicles, there are still many people who have wrong ideas and mistaken beliefs about EVs. Some are that they cost too much, they aren’t reliable, they don’t have enough range, they’re for treehuggers and hippies, etc. When Teslas are chosen to be functional fleet vehicles, such as police cars, the fact they are selected for this type of demanding service confirms they are fully capable of providing effective transportation.
The town of Sykesville, Maryland, published a press release recently stating that it had purchased a Tesla Model Y for its police patrol fleet. Sykesville Police Department Chief Michael Spaulding generously answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the department’s new Tesla and provided some photos.
Is the Model Y your department’s first electric vehicle, and if so, why did you want to purchase an EV instead of another gas-powered vehicle?
Yes, the Tesla Model Y is the first electric vehicle purchased by the town of Sykesville. Our initial considerations for purchasing an electric vehicle were environmental impact and cost savings. However, the more research that we conducted on electric vehicles, particularly the Tesla EV, the more we realized that we would meet our overall needs of not only environmental impact and cost savings, but also performance, safety, and reliability.
How long did you spend researching EVs before the purchase, and what was your process?
We spent the good part of one year researching EVs, particularly those that were currently in use as a patrol vehicle in police departments here in Maryland as well as across the country. Unfortunately, there were only a few EVs in use at that time in Maryland police departments, and none of those were using a Tesla EV. Furthermore, of the few Maryland police departments that were using EVs, none were using the EV in a full-time patrol function. As a result, our research turned to police departments in other areas of the country that were currently using a Tesla EV, namely Bargersville Police Department in Indiana; Westport Police Department in Connecticut; and Fremont Police Department in California. In fact, we were surprised to discover that these three police departments had been using Tesla EVs for a sustained period of time, some as long as 5 years. The favorable reports that all three of these police departments presented greatly influenced our decision to move forward with the purchase of our Tesla EV as a full-time patrol vehicle.
Why did you choose the Model Y over other EVs, and what other EVs were you considering?
We chose the Model Y because it met all of our needs, and then some. After obtaining quotes from Tesla, Inc., on a Model Y and Model 3 in early 2020, my Fleet Manager and I visited a local Tesla dealership to get a first-hand look at the differences between these two models. Upon sitting inside each model, it became very clear to us that the Model Y offered more leg and head room, and the Model Y interior appeared to be more conducive to accommodating the extensive amount of police equipment required in a modern police patrol vehicle, i.e., police radio, mobile data terminal, in-car camera, scanner, printer, etc. In short, the Model Y met all of our needs in terms of environmental impact, cost savings, performance, safety and reliability, not to mention speed, versatility, and longevity.
What are some of the gas-powered vehicles in your fleet?
We currently have a mixed-bag of ICE patrol vehicles in our fleet, including Chevrolet Tahoes (used mostly by upper management), Ford police interceptors (both sedan and SUV models), and Dodge police packages (both the Durango and Charger models). The reason for the mixed-bag is that we have been experimenting with different makes and models to find the right fit for our small, municipal police department.
In some cases, electric vehicles have a lower total cost of ownership than gas-powered vehicles. Is that the case for your new Model Y?
That’s what we are hoping, based upon the research and findings of the previously mentioned three police departments, but it is still too soon to tell for our EV, as we have not had it in use until very recently.
How long does a gas-powered vehicle in your fleet typically last, and do you expect the Model Y to be in service longer?
A gas-powered or ICE patrol vehicle generally lasts 5-7 years, or 70,000 miles, whichever comes first, for our police department. We have found that this period of usage and/or this mileage is the safest and most economically sound time frame to replace police vehicles in our town. The time frame and mileage limit may vary depending upon many factors, to include total maintenance costs, condition of the vehicle, and specific function of the vehicle within our department. For instance, vehicles that are not assigned to full-time patrol functions may be retained longer as they do not receive the daily wear and tear that a patrol car experiences. Based upon our research, we do believe that the Tesla Model Y will remain in service many years beyond these limits due to the low maintenance needs and hence, overall lower maintenance costs of the Tesla. At the present time, we are estimating the useful lifespan of the Tesla to be between 10-12 years, but that remains to be seen and will be a critical factor in the decision to purchase more EVs in the future.
What do you do with your fleet vehicles when you retire them, and do you expect the Model Y could be sold? If it could be sold, would you anticipate it might have a higher resale than a similar gas-powered vehicle?
Generally, we either repurpose the vehicle within our department or sell it, after removing all police equipment and markings. We are fortunate to be the site of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Center here in our town, and in the past we have sold our former patrol vehicles to the Training Center for use on their Driver Training track. It would be hard to determine what the resale value will be for an EV in the future, but we would hope that it would bring more resale value than a 5-7 year-old ICE patrol vehicle with 70,000 miles or more. Time will tell on this issue.
Are there any performance advantages the Model Y have over other vehicles in your fleet?
As stated, performance was a critical factor in the selection of a Tesla Model Y for our first-ever electric patrol vehicle. The Tesla handles extremely well due to its low center of gravity and design (known as the “Skateboard” design). In terms of acceleration and speed, the Tesla is unmatched. One has only to test-drive the car to realize that it has plenty of “get up and go” — more than enough for catching up to violators or emergency response, particularly within a small community such as ours. In addition to the handling and speed, the Tesla has a 5-star safety rating and industry-leading collision avoidance technology, to include a regenerative braking system which allows for sudden stopping. These safety factors are critical, considering the speed of the vehicle.
After doing your research and purchasing a Tesla, what are some of the misconceptions you think people might have about EVs?
Some of the misconceptions that people have about EVs are that they don’t have enough range (our Model Y has 326 miles on a full charge), that there are not enough charging stations available (we have two in front of our station and 9 others just outside of town), that it takes too long to charge (Level 2 charging to 80% only takes a few hours), and that EVs are too expensive (the total cost of ownership is far less than gas vehicles). In the police world, I think the common misconceptions are that EVs are not pursuit-ready and that they can’t handle the amount and weight of police equipment. This remains to be seen for us, but based upon our research, we are confident that the Tesla Model Y is the right police patrol vehicle for our town.