The changing landscape of electric vehicle adoption in law enforcement

As automakers add electric options for their public safety customers, here is what you need to know for 2023 and beyond

If your agency is still resisting the move toward electric vehicles, you need to ask yourself why.

This article originally appeared in the Police1 Digital Edition, “Police1 guide to patrol vehicle electrification.” Download your copy here.

By Chief (ret.) Michael Benson, MPA

We are going to look back to this year as the tipping point for electric vehicles in law enforcement.

There are several strong electric options available for police fleets today, and more are coming on to the market in the next 2-3 years as more departments incorporate EVs into their fleets.

Every day, we hear about another department adding Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles to their fleet. Ford has also certified the Mustang Mach-E for police use, and recently announced an SSV version of the F-150 Lightning. Chevrolet also has a police package for its Bolt EV, which is a nice, small and affordable electric vehicle – but too small for patrol work.

The latest law enforcement EV news includes the Model PD and the Chevrolet Blazer EV. It is nice to see Chevy wants to leverage its electric vehicle development to create a law enforcement-focused vehicle; production is reported to begin in 2023, with availability in 2024.

The Model PD is the first public safety conversion package for a Tesla Model Y. This company has patented its designs and parts, is able to leverage the built-in screen in the car for a mobile data terminal; and the vehicles utilize a carbon fiber roof, steel wheels and pursuit-rated tires. They hope to get the Model PD certified for law enforcement use this year.

Why the hesitation?

If your agency is still resisting the move toward electric vehicles, you need to ask yourself why. EVs offer more power than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, they are quicker and their efficiency makes them an excellent patrol vehicle.

A Tesla Model Y has more torque and horsepower, and is quicker from 0-60 mph than the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Chevy Tahoe. Interior space is comparable to the Explorer, and its native EV design means you get a flat floor and a front trunk, or “frunk”. ICE vehicles waste a lot of energy at idle and on patrol, while EVs are extremely efficient at slow speeds and at idle. Electric vehicles also have instant access to their torque, which provides immediate acceleration when a quick response is needed.

EVs are also cheaper to own and operate when you take all the costs into consideration, especially the costs of fuel and maintenance.

Sluggish supply chains impact EV availability

With all the electric vehicle options added for law enforcement benefit, are they really available to purchase today? Ford’s EVs are sold out; the Chevy Bolt has limited inventory, and the Teslas have been taking months to come in.

The manufacturers are taking on these challenges by ramping up their volumes, solidifying their supply chains (especially for batteries) and developing sales strategies to get these vehicles in the hands of their police fleet customers.

If you are ready to dip your toes in the EV pool, the best way is to contact a fleet management company as soon as you can. Look for a company with municipal experience, especially with public safety fleets, and the deployment of electric vehicles.

Your best access to acquiring an electric vehicle in 2023 is through fleet leasing companies. They have better access to EVs; early access to fleet-specific vehicles, like the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro and E-Transit van; and they also provide low entry cost to EVs, which still have higher purchase prices compared to ICE-powered vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, the total cost of ownership for an EV is cheaper than an ICE vehicle, but the up-front cost can still be a hurdle for some agencies.

Charging a mission-critical fleet

Electric vehicle implementation requires establishing a charging system. If you assign patrol vehicles to individuals, you can look to install Level 2 charging, which is based on a 240-volt circuit up to 80 amps. This is similar to the amount of power you need for air conditioning in your home. Your leasing company and EV manufacturer can help you with this. If you share vehicles, and/or you want a more robust and resilient charging infrastructure to ensure your EVs will not have to wait to charge, you need to look at developing a microgrid.

Microgrids are a combination of local power generation, energy storage and a power distribution system. The U.S. military is installing microgrids at all of its facilities around the world, because it sees the value of resilience and wants to successfully adopt EVs as well. The typical microgrid for a public safety fleet in the U.S. will use solar panels, a battery energy storage system and an EV supply equipment system (chargers) designed to support a mission-critical fleet.

If you need fast charging, you should look at microgrids to provide robust, resilient power for your fleet and your facility. Even when the power goes out, a microgrid will operate as an island of power while the rest of the power is out.

A system-wide change

This is the beginning of a system-wide change over from ICE cars to EVs for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, public works and transit agencies. The time is now to plan your move toward EVs starting in 2023. There are good EV options today, and even more coming soon.

To help you get started, you should contact a qualified fleet leasing company for help with acquiring EVs for public safety use, and consider what level of charging you need based on how quickly you want your EVs to be ready for their next shift or assignment.

Electric vehicles are the present and future of the automotive industry; therefore they are the present and future for law enforcement fleets. Many agencies across the country have successfully deployed EVs already. With the performance and savings benefits they provide; it is time your department did the same.

NEXT: Is your PD considering an electric vehicle purchase? This chief answers FAQs about Tesla Model Y squad

About the author
Michael Benson is the co-owner of Command Consulting, LLC, a company focusing on municipal electrification. He is a retired public safety professional with 30 years of experience innovating for local and regional governments, improving services and lowering costs. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Anna Maria College, a Professional Certificate in Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies from Stanford, and he has been driving an electric car for the last 4 years.