The over-amped response to a Tesla-based Police car running out of power

It was reported today that a Tesla Model S patrol car owned by the Fremont, CA police department ran out of power during a pursuit. The reporting does not say what happens when a gasoline powered patrol car runs out of gasoline. Instead it calls out the Tesla patrol car, and that a police officer had to stop his pursuit because the car ran low on power.

Does this mean that electric police cars are useless, and therefore electric cars are useless, and all of us rooting for electric cars are nuts? No. It means, as we’ll see in a minute, that the Press is failing to accurately report the story. Instead they’re essentially lying in order to get clicks.

According to news reports, on Friday evening a Fremont police officer was in hot pursuit of a “felony vehicle”. The pursuit was southbound on I-680 and reached speeds up to 120 miles/hr. Around the Jacklin Road exit in Milpitas (hence, the pursuit not only left Fremont, but left Alameda County) the officer radio’d in saying “Just slowed down to six miles of battery on the Tesla, so I may lose it here in a sec. If someone else is able, can they maneuver into the number one spot?”

According to Police, other units took over the pursuit but was “called off” when it became unsafe. The car was later found abandoned in San Jose.

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A Fremont police spokesperson is quoted saying “The Tesla wasn’t fully charged at the beginning of the shift. This unfortunately happens from time to time even in our vehicles that run on gas, if they aren’t re-fueled at the end of a shift.”

Let’s get this straight. Sometimes gasoline powered police cruisers run out of gasoline, and sometimes electric powered police cruisers run out of electricity. So… what’s the news? Why this:

Every local news outlet and some nation-wide news outlets is running the story that a Tesla-based police cruiser ran out of electricity and failed in hot pursuit.

But that story is a lie. The Fremont Police themselves said their gasoline powered cruisers sometimes run out of gasoline.

An electric Police Cruiser?

Let’s ponder a moment the value of an electric police cruiser in the first place. Just asking the question, I recognize that my gut assumption is that a police officer is driving all day long and therefore needs to be on gasoline. But, isn’t that an incorrect limiting belief?

What is the actual distance a police officer drives during a day? Maybe a 300 mile range electric car is sufficient? Gasoline cars tend to have a 300-400 mile range as well. Doesn’t that indicate 300 miles range is sufficient for a patrol car?

According to a January 2019 press release by the Fremont PD, the city bought a used 2014 TESLA Model S 85 in January 2018 for $61,478.50. They since spent a few thousand dollars retrofitting in some police equipment. The car replaced a 2007 Dodge Charger which was scheduled to be taken out of service due to age. 

The press release said: “The Tesla is the only electric vehicle that met specifications for size, performance, battery range, and safety, all required for a fully deployable patrol vehicle.”

The press release goes on to attempt to describe the cost/benefit analysis. For example a Ford Explorer with the police package costs about $40,000 and requires modifications similar to what was done with the Tesla Model S. Fuel cost of the Ford Explorer police cruiser over five years  is approximately $32,000, and maintenance is estimated at $15,000.

For the Tesla, the Fremont PD installed a solar array and is powering three charging stations from the solar array. They’re expecting much lower maintenance costs, and of course the fuel cost is related to the amortized cost of the solar array.

The Fremont PD website has more information on the electric police cruiser pilot project

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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