An all-electric Tesla Model Y vehicle is about to be put into service as a patrol car for the Eden Prairie Police Department.
Will it pass the test?
City officials are eager to know if it will have all the performance and durability of a traditional gas-powered patrol car—the fast acceleration, hard braking, responsive steering, heavy mileage, and dependability in all kinds of weather – not to mention the environmental and financial pay-offs over time.
Nothing is certain, as only a handful of police departments across the country have deployed electric vehicles (EVs) as bona-fide patrol cars.
EVs as cars used by police investigators and administrators?
But as hard-charging vehicles for crime deterrence, apprehension, traffic control, and more? And able to endure harsh Minnesota winters?
Not so much.
Putting electric patrol cars to the test
One of the rare trailblazers is the police department in Fremont, Calif., which also happens to be the home of a Tesla manufacturing plant.
That department piloted the use of a Tesla Model S 85 for patrol operations for a one-year period, from March 2019 to March 2020, and found that it exceeded department goals on performance and cost when emissions and energy savings were taken into account.
Paul Schlueter, longtime manager of the City of Eden Prairie’s Fleet Services Division, says he has a “high level of confidence” that Eden Prairie will also find long-term cost savings from using the Tesla, but it will take some time.
The test period will last at least 100,000 miles, which might take 3-4 years.
“There’s been a lot of excitement since Day One,” added Schlueter. Unfortunately, Day One may be as long ago as the summer of 2019, when he and other city staff began looking at Fremont’s experience and made contact with the California police department. Focus on Tesla’s Model S shifted to the Model Y when it came out, and the Eden Prairie City Council approved the $52,290 purchase last fall.
Customizing for patrol
The city took delivery of the vehicle in December, and it’s been a seven-month push to have it outfitted to match other Eden Prairie patrol cars – including a front-end “push bumper” capable of shoving a disabled car out of a busy intersection.
That has required a lot of custom work, meaning it is costing more to outfit the Tesla than a traditional patrol car in Eden Prairie. The outfitting cost is expected to drop if more Tesla patrol cars follow.
“It took time, obviously,” said Matt Sackett, the department’s new chief, said about the wait.
One thing is known for sure: “The Tesla does have the get-up-and-go that’s necessary,” said Officer Scott Mittelstadt.
Mittelstadt supervises the Police Department’s fleet of about 40 vehicles, assigns officers to patrol cars, and makes sure the vehicles are equipped and maintained.
The Tesla Y has software that allows the car to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and reach a speed of 140 mph.
Other brands of all-electric vehicles didn’t have the specifications needed to serve as patrol cars, Schlueter and Mittelstadt said.
“Green” math and electric patrol cars
Still, it is other qualities that will likely determine if additional Tesla EV’s are purchased. Although all-electric vehicles have a higher initial purchase price than traditional cars powered by an internal-combustion engine, EV’s cut fuel costs and greenhouse-gas emissions, and lower operating costs by having fewer moving parts that need maintenance and repair.
Putting all of those factors together, and more – including estimated resale value – the City of Eden Prairie figures that the Tesla Model Y will have a total lifecycle cost of $56,016.40, compared to $58,756.41 for the Dodge Chargers that have traditionally been used as patrol cars in Eden Prairie.
Fremont, by comparison, decided to purchase more EV patrol cars after its one-year experiment showed that the Tesla S provided 27 fewer days of downtime per year and $2,147 savings in total annual cost of energy/fuel, maintenance, and repair.
Both cities are trying to prove you can be “green” and save money in the long run.
Eden Prairie’s Tesla trial is part of the city’s much larger sustainability program, which includes a Climate Action Plan. The city began converting to hybrid vehicles more than a decade ago.
Among its 129 light-duty vehicles, there are currently two plug-in hybrid EV’s and 10 hybrids, including Chevrolet Volts; Ford Fusions, Interceptors, Escapes, and Explorers; a Toyota Prius and several RAV4’s.
The city has installed charging stations available for public use at city facilities, including the Eden Prairie City Center at 8080 Mitchell Road, with more coming soon.
It’s a sustainability effort that some Eden Prairie officials say is second only to Minneapolis when Minnesota cities are compared.
“We’ve been trying to go electric with as many fleet vehicles as we can,” said Schlueter, but it gets more complicated when you go beyond the standard vehicles used by city building inspectors and others.
Of about 300 city vehicles, about one-third are construction equipment. There will be many more changes to the local fleet, Schlueter added, when the auto industry comes up with an all-electric, three-fourths-ton pick-up truck that can do everything the city’s many pick-up trucks can do.
The city’s Climate Action Plan also has an ambitious goal for city residents, stating, “By 2050, all vehicles driving within City boundaries will be electric.”
An era of electrification, it seems, has begun, starting with squad car black-and-whites going green.