Menlo Park council OKs pilot to test Teslas as police vehicles | November 12, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - November 12, 2021

Menlo Park council OKs pilot to test Teslas as police vehicles

by By Kate Bradshaw

As part of a move to curb the city's carbon footprint, the Menlo Park City Council recently agreed to purchase a number of new hybrid and electric vehicles for the city's police and public works departments. Part of that project involves the purchase of three new Model Y Teslas to shape a police department electric vehicle pilot program.

The council voted 3-2 on Oct. 26, with council members Jen Wolosin and Cecilia Taylor opposed, to replace six existing gas-powered police vehicles with hybrid Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles and purchase a number of public works vehicles at a cost of about $1.6 million. Wolosin said she favored approving the spending to buy the hybrid replacement vehicles but wanted to hold off on the Tesla pilot program and revisit the idea at a later date.

The police department will initiate a $350,000 pilot program to test three Tesla electric vehicles. Each Tesla is expected to cost between $108,000 and $116,000 after they are outfitted for public safety patrol. In addition, the department plans to purchase an electric Chevy Bolt as a code enforcement vehicle.

The council also approved funding for the public works department to replace various other vehicles, including a hybrid forestry truck, a towable compressor, a dump truck, a tree chipper, a water tender, and a water valve exerciser truck.

The city is working on a plan to decarbonize the city's vehicle fleet by 2030.

Generally, the standard used to determine suitability of vehicles for police work is the "Michigan State Police Vehicle Evaluation," according to a staff report. It determines whether a vehicle is considered pursuit-rated or pursuit capable. Teslas haven't been vetted by that system to see if they're adequate for whatever car chase needs the department might have, but the city of Fremont has tested both Tesla's Model Y and Model S in pilot programs. The Ford Mustang Mach-E has been tested recently, according to a staff report.

The city plans to design a template for converting a Tesla Model Y for civilians into a fully functioning patrol vehicle.

Currently, about 76% of the city's fleet is powered with gas and renewable diesel, 20% is hybrid and 4% is electric. The switch would bump the number of the city's hybrid vehicles to 27 up from 22 and electric vehicles to nine from five and drop the total number of gas or renewable diesel-powered vehicles to 80 down from 85, according to a staff report.

While there are some questions as to whether having electric vehicles as part of the police fleet will be effective, to some degree that is part of what the pilot program seeks to answer, said Mayor Drew Combs.

"The council has expressed desire that we be a leader in issues related to reducing carbon footprint," he said. "I like the idea of the city taking the onus on itself versus issuing mandates for the public."

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

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