British Cops Say EVs ‘Run Out of Puff,’ May Be Unsuitable for Police Duty

EVs can’t replace ICEs in every role, as Britain’s biggest police user of EVs has learned the hard way.

byJames Gilboy|
Gloucestershire Constabulary EVs
Gloucestershire Constabulary EVs | Nissan.

Britain's biggest police operator of electric vehicles said this week that further EV adoption could be limited. A department official complained its cruisers are running out of charge and voiced concerns that further EV uptake could limit its operational readiness.

According to the BBC, the problems reportedly presented themselves in service with the Gloucestershire Constabulary, 21 percent of whose 435-vehicle fleet is electric. That reportedly makes it Britain's biggest police user of EVs. Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson claimed problems with recharging department vehicles and instances where cruisers "run out of puff." Asked whether he supported his department's EV use, Nelson reportedly said he was concerned the vehicles were limiting the Constabulary's operational effectiveness and worried they could strand officers.

"The design options available for electric vehicles for operational uses are not perhaps as advanced as I would like them to be," said Nelson, who said he was, "cautious about going any further down that [EV] road at this stage."

Nelson did not specify how many occasions his department's EVs ran out of charge, though he isn't the first police authority to resist EVs. In 2021, the Michigan Department of State Police included the Ford Mustang Mach-E in its annual police vehicle evaluation, only to issue a damning verdict on the EV. While testers praised Ford's performance, operating cost, and trunk release, they rated it poorly in all other fields. Some of Mach-E's problems were specific to it as a vehicle, while others stemmed from the fundamental limitations of EVs.

One such limitation was performance degradation as battery charge depleted, a problem that reared its head in the line of duty when a Tesla Model S police car ran out of juice during a high-speed chase. While more efficient than combustion-engined cars, EVs can't efficiently store the same amount of energy that a gas tank can, and their performance diminishes as their batteries heat up during use. For these (and possibly other) reasons, only one EV so far (the Mach-E) has attained the "pursuit-rated" status so far, potentially slowing the uptake of EVs by American police departments.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Police Pilot Vehicle | Ford

Pursuit-rated, however, is a term seemingly lacking a standardized definition and is only broadly described by as befitting a police vehicle better suited for prolonged high-speed driving and heavy braking. The Iowa Department of Public Safety's specific interpretation defines "pursuit-rated" as requiring a sturdier chassis, suspension, steering, brakes, and tires, the obvious theme being durability. The certification may be of limited value for EVs, however, as they're inherently better suited to less energy-intensive roles such as patrols or parking enforcement.

Indeed, while EVs don't fit all police applications (or even some departments), some police departments have found EVs beneficial to operate. One Indiana police department, for example, found that its Tesla Model 3 cruiser saved it even more money than anticipated. This shows it's important for departments to carefully evaluate which vehicles best fit their needs before investing in new vehicles, lest they waste taxpayer money on unsuitable EVs.

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