BMW i3 Deal Kicks Off Ambitious LAPD Plug-in Deployment Plan

 In Electric Vehicle News

The Los Angeles Police Department announced an agreement earlier this month to lease 100 BMW i3 electric cars over the next three years. The move is part of a promise to electrify 50 percent of all new vehicles purchased for the city fleet by 2017—a promise Mayor Eric Garcetti says that Los Angeles is already well ahead of schedule in keeping.

Last year, the city pledged to acquire nearly 300 plug-in vehicles across several agencies. The i3 deal brings the total number of all-electric cars in Los Angeles’s fleet of approximately 11,000 vehicles, to nearly 200. At least 128 plug-in hybrids are also in service or expected to be soon. These vehicles will be supported by a $1.5 million investment in charging infrastructure by the city.

The decision comes after the department had completed a trial of the Tesla Model S in the hopes of possibly deploying it as a patrol car. Though many reports have spun the BMW deal as a choice of the i3 over the Model S, the truth is the that the cars were being considered for entirely different roles within the department’s fleet.

Mayor Garcetti pledged that the department would “definitely” begin integrating electric squad cars into the city’s fleet soon, but a police administrator told the press in May that electrification of patrol units isn’t quite viable yet. The Model S is still expensive compared to vehicles like the Dodge Charger Pursuit. But as with many other EVs, the Model S’s real starting cost is probably a lot closer to conventional ICEs than MSRP would indicate.

“Conventional electric vehicles already come with lots of technology,” an LAPD official told CNBC back in May. “They have many capabilities that conventional vehicles… do not have. We have to pay top dollar to add or retrofit the vehicles.” The Charger Pursuit starts in the $25,000 tier but generally sets departments back in the range of $30,000 to $45,000 after options and custom outfitting.

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tesla police cruiser

The LAPD will hold off on investing in a Tesla-made police cruisers—for now.

The i3 may not be able to cut it in one of LA’s famed freeway car chases, but it will be useful for a number of non-patrol applications, including community outreach and transporting detectives and other police officials. The updated 2017 i3 will be available in two battery sizes: the 22-kWh pack found in the 2016 edition gets 81 miles of range, and a new 33-kWh version is capable of 104 miles per charge.

The Motor Transportation Division (MTD) of the LAPD is responsible for purchasing and maintaining more than 5,000 vehicles, with a maintenance budget of more than $14 million per year. Electric vehicles are frequently estimated to provide maintenance savings compared to gasoline-fueled vehicles, which will eventually be a significant source of savings for the city. In the near term though, since MTD services its own vehicles, investments in electric vehicle maintenance capabilities will have to be made before the LAPD starts to see those dividends.

Los Angeles police vehicles log more than 56 million miles annually. The i3 will be expected to average roughly 10,000 miles per year. In order to reach or exceed that annual mileage, the MTD will closely monitor vehicle charge patterns and duty cycles.

The city said one of the major points of attraction for the i3 is BMW’s ConnectedRescue telematics system, a specially customized version of the ConnectedDrive software found in many of its consumer vehicles. Data collected by the system will be used to boost electric mileage, optimize charge schedules, and guide future plug-in vehicle investment.

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