By Police1 Staff
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Last month, the Somerset (Wis.) Police Department took delivery of a new squad car, but it’s not like many of the traditional squads you see patrolling the streets. Instead of a Ford, Dodge or Chevy, the department purchased its first Tesla Model Y – an electric vehicle aimed at reducing costs for the department as well as the community.
When the department first posted about the approval to purchase the Tesla Model Y as their next police car, the Facebook post received a slew of questions about next steps. To ensure the community’s questions were answered, Somerset PD Chief Joel Trepczyk put together a frequently asked questions post on its Facebook page.
Below, Trepczyk answers a variety of questions, including the department’s reason for choosing the Tesla police car, charging inquiries and feedback from officers who have driven the electric vehicle.
1. Why was a Tesla Model Y selected as a police vehicle for the Village of Somerset?
Chief Trepczyk: Since I started in Somerset in 2010, we’ve had recurring costly maintenance and repair issues in our patrol fleet. At one point, the repairs were getting so expensive that they were preventing us from purchasing new vehicles. This is because the money we budgeted for new vehicles was used to repair our aging fleet.
In 2019, we ripped the Band-Aid off by reducing our aging fleet from five to three vehicles, while procuring a less-than-ideal 2019 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Ford Police Responder). It was cheaper and we would be saving some money on fuel and maintenance. Our outgoing Ford Explorers (Ford Police Interceptors Utilities) were averaging 10 MPG, versus our new FWD Hybrid Squad, which averaged 24+ MPG (realized real-world MPG, which is much lower than the EPA-rated MPG due to our type of low speed/start-stop driving).
Municipal fleets are susceptible to harsh elements and increased wear and tear, such as long hours of slow-speed driving, abrupt starts and stops, and long hours of idle. Our outgoing fleet experienced electrical and drivetrain issues, as well as a recall that was letting exhaust into the cabin of the squad car – ultimately making officers sick.
Our most recent retired Ford Police Interceptor Utility racked up over $15,000 worth of maintenance and repair, depreciated over $30,000 and was averaging 10 MPG over its five-year/100,000-mile duty cycle.
We proposed a Tesla Model Y due to the fact it would meet our department needs and save taxpayers approximately $80,000 over the 10-year duty cycle of the vehicle. The Model Y is a 100% battery electric vehicle, which is gaining more popularity with law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. Some of the cost savings of an electric vehicle vs. a traditional squad includes, but is not limited to:
- No oil changes
- Regenerative braking
- Battery designed for 500,000 miles
- Drivetrain/motors designed for 1,000,000 miles
- Five-year/125,000 mile drivetrain and battery warranty
- Most are American-made vehicles
- Highest crash test rating
- Superior performance
- Long vehicle life
[READ: The economic advantages of electric vehicles]
2. How Much did the Tesla model y Cost?
The vehicle was purchased using American Rescue Plan Act funds. We also applied funding from an LEA grant, as well as donations to the purchase. The purchase price of the vehicle was around $60,000. More importantly, it’s projected to save our village over $80,000 throughout its 10-year duty cycle.
3. Where Will You Charge It?
We had a Tesla wall connector donated and installed at the police department. The Tesla charges at a rate of 25 mph via a “Level 2” electric vehicle supply equipment EVSE. Most of our officers average 30 to 60 miles per shift.
4. Will you have enough charge to make it through your shift?
Yes, the Model Y has a range of about 300 miles. Battery electric vehicles thrive in low speed, start/stop environments, which use regenerative braking to put energy back into the battery. Whenever an officer is parked at the police department, the vehicle will be plugged in.
5. Who gets to drive the new squad?
Our officers have the ability to choose which squad car they want to drive on any given day. Everyone will have an opportunity to drive the new squad if they so choose. So far, the Tesla police car has been a popular choice.
6. Do the lights/siren, police radio and computer drain the battery faster?
The police equipment in the vehicle is hooked up to an auxiliary battery, which is charged via two OEM USB outlets and has a very minor impact on overall range. The police equipment (including the lights and siren) could be left on for over 24 hours without the battery being fully depleted.
[READ: Debunking the top 10 electric vehicle myths in law enforcement]
Somerset Police Department’s new Tesla Model Y squad car.
The front seat of Somerset PD’s Telsa Model Y squad.
The back seat of Somerset PD’s Telsa Model Y squad.
7. Why does the Tesla have reflective graphics?
Because the Tesla is not a traditional police vehicle, we wanted to make sure the public could easily identify it as a police vehicle – especially at night.
8. Are you aware of any other Police Departments nearby that have Tesla polices cars?
Yes, Eden Prairie Police Department and Eagan Police Department are two agencies around here that I’m aware of. We met with Eden Prairie PD and toured their Model Y prior to pitching this vehicle to the village board. An internet search for “Tesla police car” will reveal dozens of results of other agencies around the nation who are using Tesla’s as police cars. They’ve become popular enough that emergency vehicle equipment manufactures like Setina, Havis, Whelen, etc., have been advertising their Tesla-specific equipment on the cover of catalogs and mailers.
9. What do the officers think of the new squad car?
So far, so good! The feedback has been positive and the officers seem to choose the new squad over the others. The more you see this Tesla police car on the road, the more money our village will be saving. The officers are still getting adjusted to the one pedal driving and quick acceleration.
10. Will the Model Y be available for a tour?
Yes, we are planning on having the new squad on display on February 4 at the Somerset Police Department during a open house from 3 to 6 p.m. You’re also welcome to stop by anytime or flag us down and we’d be happy to show you around if we’re available!
11. Aren’t electric vehicles “worse” for the environment?
We specifically choose the Tesla Model Y for the financial benefits. However, there are plenty of electric vehicle myths. Read this article to learn more about myths surrounding electric vehicles, especially if your department is considering adding electric vehicles to your fleet.
12. Aren’t there humanitarian concerns surrounding mining of rare-earth materials for batteries needed for battery electric vehicles ?
Yes. Tesla joined the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and uses the IRMA Standard, as well as other internationally recognized responsible mining standards. Read pages 99-111 of the Tesla Impact Report for more information here.
13. Will the electric grid be able to handle the load that electric vehicles will demand?
Xcel Energy provides electricity for the Village of Somerset municipal buildings. Xcel Energy has ambitious climate goals, which include powering electric vehicles. For more information, check out their website here.
Additionally, I’m applying for an Energy Innovation Grant through the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which may provide a solar charge port for our electric squad car. This would make it possible to operate independent of the grid.
DOWNLOAD: Digital Edition: Police1 guide to patrol vehicle electrification