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Posted on: September 29, 2019

Fremont Patrol Tesla in the News

Fremont PD Tesla

The Fremont Police Department has been in the news recently for an incident involving the Department’s electric police patrol vehicle (Tesla Model S). Fremont Police first deployed the Tesla in March of this year as a fully outfitted patrol vehicle. Over the first six months, the performance feedback and initial data collection has been very positive and the Department is in early discussions of expanding the program. During a pursuit on Friday, September 20, the battery charge began to run low, which has been the cause for recent attention.


On Friday afternoon, a patrol officer checked out the Tesla patrol vehicle at the start of his shift and noticed the battery was half-charged. A typical battery at full charge ranges from 220-240 miles and during an 11-hour patrol shift, Fremont patrol officers drive approximately 70-90 miles. While not policy, Fremont Police recommend officers begin their shift with at least a half tank of gas or in this case, a battery charge of 50%. On this date, the officer driving the Tesla noted approximately 50% of battery life when he began his shift. While the vehicle is routinely charged between shifts, on Friday the vehicle had just been returned from the City of Fremont’s Corporation Yard. The vehicle is regularly returning at the end of every shift with 40-60%, if not more, of the battery charge remaining.


Nine hours into the officer’s shift, at 11:05 p.m., he became involved in a vehicle pursuit that lasted a total of 8 minutes. The pursuit began in the Irvington District and traveled on Washington Blvd., before merging southbound onto I-680 towards San Jose. Within minutes, two additional Fremont patrol units were behind the Tesla and in the pursuit. Additionally, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was notified and responding. As standard protocol, once CHP has sufficient units, they take over Fremont Police pursuits on the freeway.


The pursuit spanned approximately 10 miles and at times exceeded 110 mph. Regular updates regarding the speed, location, general traffic and roadway conditions were provided by the second officer in the pursuit. Just before the pursuit ended at 11:13 p.m., the officer driving the Tesla responsibly notified his cover units he was going to have to back out of the pursuit because his battery was running low. Just after they passed the Montague Expressway exit, the suspect drove on the left shoulder of the road to pass a vehicle. At that time, the Fremont Police Sergeant monitoring the pursuit gave orders to terminate to ensure public safety. All three units deactivated their emergency equipment and returned to normal driving conditions. At that point, the Tesla was driven to a nearby charging station and the additional Fremont units returned to the City. CHP located the suspect’s unoccupied vehicle in the area of I-680 and the Berryessa exit. At no time did the battery of the Tesla become a factor in our ability to pursue the suspect or perform our duties. This situation, while embarrassing, is no different from cases where a patrol car runs low (or even dry) of fuel.


In recent years police radio traffic has become readily accessible through phone applications and its common practice for news media and even community members to monitor and record. On Monday, September 23, a local journalist contacted our Department requesting additional details regarding the pursuit. The journalist subsequently wrote an article and released a portion of our radio traffic. Since that time, the Department has received numerous media inquiries regarding the vehicle’s battery, and public interest in the original story propelled it into the national spotlight.


Over the last six months, data on range, performance, equipment, and other elements has been gathered by officers through its use as a patrol vehicle. During this time, Fremont Police has documented two police pursuits, where the vehicle met and exceeded expectations. The final results and data will ultimately help the Department determine if the EV technology meets current patrolling applications and cost effectiveness. The Department remains dedicated to the continued research into the benefits of using electric vehicles and the effects they have on the environment. 


Captain Sean Washington stated, “So far, the vehicle is performing extremely well, and has exceeded our expectations. We are already in initial conversations about testing a second vehicle, likely an SUV model, and we look forward to providing our initial results in the near future.”


View more information on Fremont Police Department’s electric vehicle pilot program  

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