"Calling All Electric Cars! Time for Police Duty!"

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Jun 09, 2016

“Calling all cars! Wanted criminals hiding in abandoned warehouse on the South Side! For a stealth approach with no engine noise, only the electric BMW i3s should respond!”

LA Police Chief Charlie Beck (left) and Mayor Eric Garcetti kick the tires on their new zero-emission cop car. Beck is smiling because his other car is a Tesla Model S. (BMW photo)This could be the LAPD of the near future, because the department is leasing ($387 a month) 100 BMW i3 electric cars for its transportation fleet. OK, maybe they won’t be doing hot pursuit—they’re going to be “non-emergency fleet vehicles," also used for “community outreach.” My guess is that the LAPD will be getting great response from the public when it rolls up in these whimsical battery vehicles.

For routine duty, the cops may not need the i3’s stellar acceleration—zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds, says Car and Driver. They seem to be more impressed by the car’s ConnectedDrive integration. BMW says the company’s software data system “will integrate with the LAPD’s fleet management system. That will allow the department to electronically receive critical vehicle data needed to effectively manage their fleet.” BMW is also designing a web tool that will track the fleet in near real-time—great for checking if officers are on doughnut breaks.

The BMW/LAPD deal also includes 100 Level 2 chargers (240 volts) and four DC fast chargers (480 volts), with the latter capable of charging the i3s in 30 minutes or so. The need for lengthy charging is probably why the cars aren’t on frontline duty.

Police livery suits this fast cop cruiser. (BMW photo)Dave Buchko, BMW’s West Coast spokesman, told me that LA isn’t alone—police forces in Bavaria, Milan and London also have on-duty i3s. “And a bank in Warsaw, Poland, is using an i3 as a mobile ATM,” he said.

LAPD said last year that it would actually acquire 160 EVs, so there’s more room in the fleet. Police Chief Charlie Beck has also been testing a donated Tesla Model S, though Elon and company lost the big sale to BMW. What a great cop car the Model S would make! Spokesman Vartan Yegiyan said the ultra-fast Tesla is being evaluated not only for regular transportation, but also for “the high-pursuit-rated vehicle arena.” I’d just give up if I saw a Model S bearing down on me.

Did I mention that BMW is fielding fire cars as well? (BMW Blog photo)The LA force is also kicking the tires on electric motorcycles, including the Brammo Empulse LE and the Zero Motorcycles DS. The Brammo has 100-mph capability, and 100-mile range, too. The Zero can go 132 miles on a charge (but only hits 95). And they’re actually cheaper than comparable gas models.

This i3 moves cash in Warsaw, Poland. (BMW Blog photo)Buchko said the non-emergency duty over a three-year lease period, is perfect for the i3, which he added was built for use in urban centers. A big plus is operational cost—just seven cents a mile. The i3 has been under evaluation since September, he said, and was put through a rigorous battery of tests. Can other BMWs make it into the hot-pursuit category? Buchko said that forthcoming (and longer range) plug-in hybrid versions of the 3-Series and X5 could work, as long as the department didn’t insist on 100 percent zero emission.

The stable T3 is supposedly great for tactical duty. Ask the sheriff who drives one. (T3 Motion photo)Meanwhile, over in Miami, they’ve already bought a fleet of nine Segway-type electric patrol vehicles from T3 Motion. The batteries come out for charging, so Bill Tsumpes of T3 Motion says the Patrollers can be on traffic duty 24/7. The Miami cops say the T3s are better balanced than comparable Segways.

The lucky Dubai police force gets to run around in this Bugatti Veyron.And how about these exotic cop cars?
  • Dubai’s police force operates both Ferrari FF (208 mph) and Bugatti Veyron (270 mph) pursuit vehicles. The latter’s $1.6 million price tag doesn’t seem to have been a deterrent for the oil-rich emirate. Also in the fleet are cars from McLaren (MP4-12C), Bentley  (Continental GT), Mercedes  (SLS) and Lamborghini  (Aventador).
  • The Washtenaw County Sherrif's Office in Michigan is testing the Chevrolet Volt for patrol duty. Connectivity is key. "We're going to put an iPad in there," said Bob Mossing, the county's fleet manager.
  • A Lamborghini Huracan patrols the highways in Italy, and New South Wales in Australia fields a Porsche 911.
  • In Vancouver, British Columbia, a pretty competitive Honda Civic Si-R is out there catching miscreants. And the authorities in Avon and Somerset, England, operate a 350-horsepower, Honda-powered Ariel Atom.
Here's more on the LAPD BMW i3s on video:


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