Last year the Los Angeles Police Department announced the acquisition of both Tesla and BMW all-electric vehicles for evaluation purposes. One Tesla is a Model P70, which is unmarked, while the other is a Model S P85D, which is a marked black-and-white patrol vehicle.
On paper, this ‘green’ vehicle would appear to be an impressive patrol vehicle: green and energy-efficient, low maintenance, and roomy. The Tesla with 691 hp and 700 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels has fantastic performance. Put the Tesla in the ‘Insane’ driving mode and one literally has neck-snapping performance with a 0-60 mph acceleration in the three-second range. According to George Yamanaka, Director of Police Transportation, the rate of acceleration will snap one’s head back solidly into the headrest.
The LAPD also leased a large number of BMW i3 electric hatchbacks. This brings their Battery Electric Vehicle fleet to 133 with another 131 Hybrid Electric Vehicles. This figure includes 23 T3 scooters and six motorcycles, totaling out to 264 vehicles. The new BMW i3 crossovers will replace aging vehicles in their fleet. Included are 104 charging stations located in the Motor Transport Division main facility in downtown Los Angeles. Four of these are DC fast chargers, which can fully charge an electric vehicle in less than an hour.
One of the secrets of neck-snapping performance with any Electric Vehicle is the fact that electric motors develop maximum torque at zero rpm. While recent increases in Internal Combustion engines have flattened torque curves, none of these develop maximum torque at idle. However, with an Electric Vehicle, the performance curve is just the opposite of a gasoline-powered vehicle. The power tapers off while accelerating at higher motor speeds.
A major advantage of the Electric Vehicle is the cost of powering the vehicle is about 25 percent of a gasoline-powered vehicle, along with zero emissions, and lowered maintenance costs. To fully charge a Chevrolet Volt costs about $2. Deceleration on an electric vehicle saves brakes and will generate current going back to the battery (regenerative braking) also add to the vehicle’s range.
The downside of pure electric vehicles is still battery technology. While it is improving in leaps and bounds, batteries are heavy, and heaviness requires energy to propel the extra weight. This is one of the reasons hybrids make sense since they don’t require as large or as heavy of a battery.
While electric vehicles produce zero emissions and don’ consume fossil fuel, the power has to come from somewhere. Some of this country’s power plants still use coal to generate electricity. Coal is an obvious source of pollutants. Other power plants use a variety of methods such as natural gas, nuclear, fossil fuel, wind, solar, and hydro-electric generation. Solar and hydro-electrics are virtually emissions-free; however, inclement weather, power overloads, and drought conditions can diminish output. If the power grid becomes overloaded, power outages could strand those with electric vehicles.
The Tesla Model S P85D (replaced by the P90D) had an MSRP over $100K, the price of three upfitted Ford PI Utilities or Dodge Chargers. Police cars lead a hard life. So while the Tesla offers sparkling performance, it was not built for such abusive treatment.
Being somewhat limited production, the parts situation may be time-consuming and expensive.
Currently the Tesla’s battery capacity comes the closest to the range of a gasoline-powered car, and a range of up to 300 miles is possible in retail use. Actual miles per charge depends on driving habits.
Police work of rapid acceleration and/or sitting stationary, operating the A/C or heater, emergency lighting, radios, and other cop gear will diminish the operating range. Part of this is the Tesla is heavy at 4,600 pounds, with 1,200 pounds of that being the battery pack. Add two officers and their cop gear and the weight often will exceed 5,000 pounds.
The Tesla’s acceleration is certainly fantastic; however, full-bore acceleration in excess of a minute or so will overheat the battery system and power will be reduced until things cool down. The 155-mph top speed is certainly impressive; however, that is only feasible on clear and open stretches of roadway.
BMW i3 Hatchback
After almost a year of testing, LAPD requested various manufacturers to bid on supplying electric vehicles as ‘people movers’ for non-emergency duties. Ford, Nissan, BMW, and Chrysler participated. Tesla Motors did not. BMW won the contract to lease 100 BMW i3 electric hatchbacks, on a three-year, closed-end lease, at a cost of $382.65 per month, per vehicle. The MSRP of the i3 is about $42,000.
While these i3 crossovers are black-and white from the factory, they will not be used for general patrol duties, i.e., no markings, lights or sirens. Instead, they will be used by administrators, non-sworn personnel, and investigators for routine assignments or to deliver officers to special events. Part of the lease agreement is for the BMW distributor to train LAPD technicians in repair and maintenance procedures.
The BMW was chosen after field-testing along with other Electric Vehicles. The final decision was partially due to EPA rated best-in-class efficiency, reliability, and BMW’s large dealer network of ‘I’ centers for service. BMW’s state-of-the-art, ConnectedDrive services can be used to support fleet management issues and will integrate with LAPD’s fleet management software.
Agile and maneuverable, the BMW i3 hatchback is just a little larger than a MINI Cooper, weighs under 2,700 pounds, and can hold four people. The i3 can travel about 80 miles on a full charge, which is 124 mpge (miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent). Recharging can be by a 110/120-volt socket or using a charger with an SAE J1772 connector at a charging station.
The i3 is a Rear-Wheel Drive vehicle with the motor in the rear. The Lithium-Ion battery pack powers a 170 hp motor, which is capable of accelerating to 60 mph acceleration in the seven-second range. That is quicker than the old Ford CVPI with a V8. The i3 is made of lightweight materials, such as Carbon-fiber Reinforced Polymers (CFRP), which keeps the weight down.
An available option is the REx (range extender) option. This $4,250 option is a two-cylinder, 647cc engine driving a generator, which will extend the range to about 150 miles. The REx option also adds about 260 pounds to the overall weight of the vehicle. LAPD, however, declined this option. They opted instead for these vehicles to be completely ‘green.’
LAPD entered into an agreement with Greenlots to provide power to the city’s fleet of Electric Vehicles. Greenlots is a global provider of standards-based distributed energy-resource solutions. They will provide 100 level #2 EV chargers plus an additional four fast chargers, which will rapidly charge an EV.
A cost of $1.5 million, originally slated for vehicle purchase, was re-directed toward purchasing charging stations. While the BMWs will be assigned to all 21 LAPD divisions, charging at outlaying divisions will now be handled by standard 110-volt outlets. Budgeting has been approved to install Smart Chargers™ at all LAPD divisions within the City of Los Angeles.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck stated: “Electric Vehicle procurement made sense for taxpayers and the environment. The charging stations will power many more electric vehicles in the future, for much less the price of gas. Every dollar we save from lower maintenance will go back into law enforcement to keep our city safe. And while our new electric cars will be used for non-emergency purposes, we will continue to monitor and test new generations of vehicles for their potential to serve as patrol cars.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “We should be thinking green in everything we do and these EVs show how local government can lead.” He added, “Our Sustainability City pLAn pushes L.A. to speed adoption of greener practices and technologies, which also saves money and resources.”
Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO of BMW North America stated, “The attributes of the BMW i3 position it to excel as the ideal vehicle for municipal organizations. The performance and technical capabilities, such as BMW i3’s acceleration and its ConnectedDrive integration are perfectly suited to transform the future mobility of the Los Angeles Police Department while also reducing their carbon footprint.”