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Police departments across the United States serve a rich and diverse community of individuals. Military officers face an extremely demanding job that combines sharp mental focus with toolsets equipped to succeed in tactics, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and of course vehicles. The police department is now considering switching to that last category to incorporate electric vehicles into its fleet. For example, the South Pasadena Police Department announced on May 8, 2023 (according to the Pasadena Star) that it will convert its entire fleet to electric vehicles, starting with plans to purchase 10 Tesla Model Ys . The acquisition follows a September 2022 vote to replace the city’s fleet, which was deemed too old to provide continued effective service to the community. This decision is sure to spark nationwide debate about whether electric vehicles are also suitable for other sectors discuss. There are some significant advantages to adding a Tesla or other electric vehicle to the vehicle pool, but EVs aren’t the right choice for every public safety organization. Compared with the traditional ICE model, the platform itself still has some limitations. Conversions may not always be beneficial due to the unique use cases police cars must serve.
Charging can be done relatively quickly, but can be a wash in some departments
Charging time required to return an EV with a depleted battery to field Usually pretty fast. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger running on DC power, the battery can recover to around 80 percent in less than half an hour. But that assumes that sectors considering moving to electrified fleets have access to this type of fast-charging infrastructure or are planning to install it. Likewise, community resources can support charging needs, but concerns remain about existing resources or plans for upcoming installations. Not every location is able to meet the charging needs of the police force, and others don’t have the budget for new vehicles and the necessary equipment to allow them to remain on-site without charging for extended periods of time. On another level, a Tesla or any other EV as the primary vehicle in a police fleet May be subject to typical obstruction officer use. EV batteries can provide a lot of range, but for those who patrol hundreds of miles at a time or frequently speed quickly to chase down traffic violators (such as state police), it may still not be enough for work. The main issue here is that officers shouldn’t be hunted down with a low gas tank (or battery), so departments across the country have strict refueling guidelines in place. Having to return to the station to recharge a patrol car’s battery during an officer’s shift may not be feasible. Unsurprisingly, the adoption of electric vehicles can be very beneficial for some and absolutely not for others.
Fuel savings can add up to a huge number
The most attractive feature that could sway police departments across the U.S. to make the switch is the potential fuel cost savings. Electric vehicles are known to save drivers a lot of money over their lifetime. In terms of emissions, the breakeven point for a new EV is estimated to be just 21,300 miles, and driving a Tesla Model Y Long Range uses about four years of fuel cost figures. However, basing those numbers on police use rather than general consumer use may change the math a bit. For example, Bagsville, Indiana, Police Chief Todd Bertram told Community Police Dispatch that his department saves as much as $6,700 a year in fuel costs for each of the five electric patrol vehicles deployed by the force, totaling That’s a whopping $33,500, not to mention the lower maintenance costs in EVs. To put it in perspective, the savings are a little over half of the median wage of a police officer in the United States.
Hot seats would make electric cars ineffective tools
Another factor that comes into play when considering the electrification of police fleets is the current structure of patrol car usage. Already stretched resources might consider adding some new vehicles, but electric cars simply won’t keep up with the practice known as “hot seating.” Police forces with smaller fleets need to share cars, with officers handing over vehicles to colleagues at each shift change. The hot seat car is on duty non-stop, so it must be refueled quickly while in use. However, it should be noted that most police forces do not hot seat their cars assigned to police officers. This is often a last-ditch effort to make ends meet if there is not enough room in the budget to replace a vehicle that is aging, failing, or otherwise in a similar condition. Even so, police departments that reuse in any form could lose significant mobility by deploying electric vehicles that need to be recharged periodically during off-duty hours.
The impact of the pure electric fleet on the environment is huge
The total combined fleet of US patrol vehicles is approximately between 250,000 and 300,000 vehicles. Just as phasing out conventional powertrains in long-haul trucking would have a huge impact (semi-trailers account for 20% of all vehicle emissions in the U.S.), retiring hundreds of thousands of gas-guzzling police cars in favor of an electrified fleet would revolutionize U.S. reduction emissions and ways to improve our shared global environment. No debate here, with every vehicle replaced by an electric model, the local community will benefit for cleaner air, less dependence on oil, and more. In fact, the future of all-electric police cars seems to be coming sooner than it does now, given the federal government’s bid to have EVs make up at least half of the new car market by 2030, install billions of dollars in charging infrastructure, and cut costs. Achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Moving to electric police fleets would have enormous benefits to the communities these departments serve, but for any force that wants to make this change early, an important analysis remains.