The LAPD Is Building a Tesla Model S Police Car

No, you haven’t read this story before. But we understand why you might feel that way. 

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Electric Vehicles photo


Luxury car buyers can’t seem to get enough of the Tesla Model S—and neither, apparently, can the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD plans to convert a Tesla Model S into a fully-fledged patrol car and set it loose on the mean streets of Los Angeles, as part of a plan that aims to replace traditional cop vehicles with electric police cruisers in the next five years.

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, well, it should. Back in May, the LAPD announced that it had borrowed a pair of Model S P85 Ds to see how the EVs could handle the demands of life on the beat. Ultimately, however, the department chose to adopt the BMW i3 as its electric vehicle of choice—albeit for non-emergency duties, not patrol use.

But now the LAPD is planning on taking one of those two loaner Teslas and building it into a cop car with all the trimmings. (In spite of its appearances, the car pictured above wasn’t converted to true patrol spec.) The P85 D will reportedly be outfitted with a shotgun rack, a perp cage in the back, and a full complement of communications equipment, LAPD vehicle overseer Vartan Yegiyan told NBC4.  

Once it’s been upgraded, it’ll be turned over to a sergeant, Yegiyan said, who will drive it to emergencies like any other cop car. The Tesla may even be used for pursuits, he said. Official testing of the vehicle is expected to begin next year.

The Tesla testing isn’t meant as a rejection of the BMW i3, mind you. The LAPD still plans to add 100 copies of the battery-powered Bimmer to its fleet in the near future. But the Bavarian city cars lack the power or range necessary for emergency response, whereas the Model S...well, y’know.

The LAPD has vowed to add electric vehicles to its fleet in order to reduce use of fossil fuels—a goal shared by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti for the city overall. To that end, the department is reportedly seeking to begin replacing gas-powered patrol cars with electric ones starting in about five years' time.

Of course, all the goodwill and eco-friendly motivation on Earth won’t change the fact that the Model S is a luxury car with a base price almost twice as steep as the Ford Interceptors and Chevy Caprices commonly chosen by American police departments. But testing out different types of EVs now gives the LAPD a chance to learn firsthand what challenges using battery-powered cars for police purposes might well as develop an infrastructure ready to handle charging all those vehicles.

In the meantime, though, L.A.’s 5-0 will have at least one Tesla driving around. Hey, as the Dubai police can tell you, there’s no harm in having a couple flashy rides in your patrol vehicle portfolio.

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