A few days ago the news was full of reporting that a Tesla-based patrol car owned by the Fremont CA police ran out of power during a hot pursuit. Apparently the story allowed news editors to push the idea that obviously electric cars aren’t suitable because they run out of power and become useless. Obviously gasoline powered patrol cars can run out of gasoline, and in fact they do, becoming just as useless in a hot pursuit. But sometimes it seems like news editors don’t let the facts get in the way of pushing an agenda.
After the Fremont PD got tired of answering questions and seeing disinformation about what happened, they issued a statement that we are republishing below. The bottom line of the statement is that this is all very normal and understandable, there’s nothing to see here, and what’s all the fuss about?
Basically the Fremont PD requires their officers to ensure patrol cars be at least 50% fueled at the start of their shift. The important data point is that Fremont patrol officers drive 70-90 miles per day, and therefore a Tesla Model S should easily cover that range even when at 50% State of Charge.
In this case the patrol officer started the shift with his Tesla at about 50% state of charge. Then after 9 hours on patrol he got into the hot pursuit. After 9 hours patrolling he had enough power in his car to start a hot pursuit, and remained engaged in that pursuit for over 10 miles at speeds up to 120 miles per hour, as the lead car in the pursuit. That’s pretty impressive.
The next thing to note is that when the officer noticed the car was running low on power, that did not endanger the pursuit. By that time the pursuit had been joined by the California Highway Patrol and there were plenty of officers available to take over the lead pursuit vehicle position.
The pursuit began in “The Irvington District”, which is in the southern part of Fremont. When the statement says the pursuit went down Washington Blvd to I-680, that road serves to connect the Irvington District to I-680. About 6 miles south of that location is the border between Fremont and Milpitas, which is also the border between Alameda County and Santa Clara County. The Montague exit, where the pursuit became dangerous, is over 10 miles from where the pursuit began.
In short the Tesla patrol car performed admirably – after 9 hours of patrol it was able to be used as the lead vehicle in a pursuit – and we should take from this a lesson that electric cars can serve as police patrol cars.
Statement from Fremont PD
“Our Department has unfortunately been in the news this week for an incident involving our electric police patrol vehicle (Tesla Model S). We first deployed the Tesla in March of this year as a fully outfitted patrol vehicle. Over the first six months, the performance feedback and initial data collection has been very positive and we are in early discussions of expanding the program. During a pursuit last Friday night, the battery charge began to run low, and we’d like the opportunity to clarify and provide additional context with regard to what occurred.
“On Friday afternoon, a patrol officer checked out our Tesla patrol vehicle at the start of his shift and noticed the battery was half-charged. A typical battery at full charge ranges from 220–240 miles and during an 11 hour patrol shift, Fremont patrol officers drive approximately 70–90 miles. While not policy, we recommend officers begin their shift with at least a half tank of gas or in this case, a battery charge of 50%. On this date, our officer driving the Tesla noted approximately 50% of battery life when he began his shift. While the vehicle is routinely charged between shifts, on Friday the vehicle had just been returned from our Corporation Yard. The vehicle is regularly returning at the end of every shift with 40–60%, if not more, of the battery charge remaining.
“Nine hours into the officer’s shift, at 11:05 p.m., he became involved in a vehicle pursuit that lasted a total of 8 minutes. The pursuit began in our Irvington District and traveled on Washington Blvd., before merging southbound onto I 680 towards San Jose. Within minutes, two additional Fremont patrol units were behind the Tesla and in the pursuit. Additionally, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was notified and responding. As standard protocol, once CHP has sufficient units, they take over our pursuits on the freeway.
“The pursuit spanned approximately 10 miles and at times exceeded 110 mph. Regular updates regarding the speed, location, general traffic and roadway conditions were provided by the second officer in the pursuit. Just before the pursuit ended at 11:13 p.m., the officer driving the Tesla responsibly notified his cover units he was going to have to back out of the pursuit because his battery was running low. Just after they passed the Montague Expressway exit, the suspect drove on the left shoulder of the road to pass a vehicle. At that time, the Fremont Police Sergeant monitoring the pursuit gave orders to terminate to ensure public safety. All three units deactivated their emergency equipment and returned to normal driving conditions. At that point, the Tesla was driven to a nearby charging station and the additional Fremont units returned to the City. CHP located the unoccupied vehicle in the area of I 680 and the Berryessa exit. At no time did the battery of the Tesla become a factor in our ability to pursue the suspect or perform our duties. This situation, while embarrassing, is no different from cases where a patrol car runs low (or even dry) of fuel.
“In recent years police radio traffic has become readily accessible through phone applications and its common practice for news media and even community members to monitor and even record. On Monday, a local journalist contacted our Department requesting additional details regarding the pursuit. The journalist subsequently wrote an article and released a portion of our radio traffic. Since that time, the Department has received numerous media inquiries regarding the vehicle’s battery. Unfortunately, public interest in the original story propelled it into the national spotlight.
“Over the last six months, data on range, performance, equipment, and other elements has been gathered by officers through its use as a patrol vehicle. During this time we have documented two police pursuits, where the vehicle met and exceeded expectations. Our final results and data will ultimately help us determine if the EV technology meets current patrolling applications and cost effectiveness. We remain dedicated to our continued research into the benefits of using electric vehicles and the effects they have on our environment. We hope to share our initial data and feedback soon.
“Captain Sean Washington stated, ‘So far, the vehicle is performing extremely well, and has exceeded our expectations. We are already in initial conversations about testing a second vehicle, likely an SUV model, and we look forward to providing our initial results in the near future.’
“For more information on our electric vehicle pilot program, visit www.fremontpolice.org/electricvehicle.”
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