Photo by Nao Ohashi

This Tuesday, the Menlo Park Police Department (MPPD) started using their two recently purchased Tesla Model Ys for full-time patrol duties. The Teslas are part of their pilot program to use electric vehicles (EVs) as patrol vehicles.

The Teslas are mainly intended to test the viability of EVs in police operations. Ori Paz, who works for the City of Menlo Park’s Sustainability Department, said, “The Teslas are a stepping stone. We’re working with our partners in the police department to get the officers more familiar and comfortable with electric vehicles. It gives us an opportunity to learn from them whether or not these vehicles are doing what they need them to do, and how we can invest in infrastructure for charging and other things in the future.”

Paz said that the department bought the Teslas because, at the time, they had the greatest mileage and were the largest EVs available. However, School Resources Officer Andrew Brunicardi, one of the officers who had been driving a Tesla patrol vehicle, said, “Since we purchased the Teslas, both Ford and Chevy announced that they were releasing police-rated EVs in the near future, so we’re waiting for them to release those and we’ve ordered a Ford Lightning that’s on the way.”

Using these EVs helps reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Paz said, “Because of our partnership with Peninsula Clean Energy, our electricity is all renewable, so if you can get the vehicles operating on electricity, then you can cut out a large amount of emissions there.”

The reduction in emissions will help the city with its climate action goals. Paz explained, “This will help us accomplish goal number five of our Climate Action Plan, which is to eliminate fossil fuel use for 90% of city operations by 2030. The fleet makes up 25% of our total emissions, and the patrol vehicles are 45% of that, so it’s a really big chunk of our emissions profile.”

In addition to patrol vehicles, the city is also looking to electrify building inspection vehicles for the building division, community service and library vehicles, other police vehicles like code enforcement vehicles, and pool vehicles (vehicles available for employees to drive to meetings or site visits).

Paz said, “The Teslas themselves were $64,000 after taxes and then outfitting them was an additional $39,000, so in total it was around $103,000 per vehicle. It seems like a large price tag, but if you look at the other vehicles in the fleet they’re somewhat comparable. For example, the Ford Explorer hybrids that are used for patrol are $51,600 for the vehicle and then they get another $25,000 with fitting for safety and communications and all of the equipment that goes into the patrol vehicles.”

Brunicardi also said that the department will compare the charging costs for EVs with gas costs and maintenance costs for their other vehicles. Since police officers often use these vehicles all day, this might be a significant cost difference.

Additionally, the EVs that the department is looking to purchase in the future will likely be much cheaper. Paz explained, “Efficiencies at the level of the car manufacturers are going to help bring down the cost of outfitting the vehicles and ensure that the vehicles are suitable for police operations.” There are also now many more subsidies available for purchasing EVs. Paz said, “The California Air Resources Board has money available, and we can get up to $7,000 for EVs with the Clean Vehicle Rebate.”

Menlo Park is one of the first cities to start implementing EVs as patrol vehicles, but many other cities like Boulder County, Colorado have since done the same. Brunicardi said, “I think other organizations will look at our program to see if it works, so it’s exciting because it’s a new transition to using EVs.”

Cleo Rehkopf is a junior in her second year of journalism. She enjoys writing about issues impacting the M-A community, particularly environmental issues. She is also on the M-A cross-country and track teams.

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