LAPD’s Multi-million Dollar Electric Fleet Allegedly Goes Unused and Unloved

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

We know the State of California loves electric cars, but the Los Angeles Police Department may have mixed emotions. Back in June of 2016, the LAPD awarded BMW with a contract to provide 100 battery-powered i3 hatchbacks as part of a plan to enhance its public image. At the time, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the press, “We should be thinking green in everything we do,� adding that the electric BMWs would “also save money and resources.�

Fast forward to 2018 and the contract is beginning to look like a good way to waste millions of dollars. The LAPD agreed to lease the vehicles, effectively doubling its electrified fleet, for three years. The logic was that the gas savings would offset the $1.4 million it would cost the police force to apprehend them from BMW. While that sounds wonderful, there is a problem — the LAPD isn’t driving them. 

An investigative report from CBS Los Angeles kept track of the vehicles and accessed the departmental mileage logs to see how far the LAPD drove the i3s. It claims some managed a few thousand miles during their time as police vehicles, while others only have a few hundred miles on the odometer. Granted, the cars haven’t been with the LAPD that long, but most aren’t getting the kind of use one would expect even a light-duty law enforcement vehicle to see.

Considering the department said it would spend at least another $1.5 million for the infrastructure necessary to charge the vehicles on-site, the entire expenditure seems like a bit of a boondoggle. The CBS report alleges the sum of the initiative is roughly $10.2 million. While we’re not sure how it came to that figure, know it has to be in excess of $3 million. No matter how you slice it, it’s still a lot of taxpayer money. But is it a total waste like the report claims?

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

If the cars were sitting completely idle, then yes. However, if the force utilizes them for things like parking enforcement — writing tickets that make the city money — then the low milage would be more understandable. The NYPD relies on a bevy of energy-efficient gas and electric vehicles for its traffic and parking enforcement vehicles. Most of those don’t see a whole lot of miles per day, either. But the LAPD said the BMWs were intended for “community outreach and other police business,” which is about as vague as it gets.

CBS LA said sources claim the all-electric i3’s limited range made personnel reluctant to use the vehicles at all. One of the cars in the LAPD’s fleet has been around since May of 2016 and has averaged about six miles per week. The outlet also followed a few of the cars after leaving the lot, catching employees using them for non-police business. In a classic moment of gotcha journalism, CBS confronted an LAPD commander as she exited a nail salon. While she definitely wasn’t supposed to be using the departmental EV for that purpose, hell, at least the car was being driven.

LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas defended the program when questioned about the limited usage of the vehicles, saying “It’s all a part of saving the Earth, going green … quite frankly, to try and save money for the community and the taxpayers.”

Since the cars are presumably just going back to BMW (barely used) when this is all said and done, we’re not sure that’s really the case. There’s nothing green or fiscally sound about using finite resources to procure vehicles that nobody drives. It’s so odd because, while the battery-only version of the i3 isn’t a great long-haul vehicle, the car should be sufficient for transporting an officer to and from a courthouse or whatever local trip an administrator might need to make. LA is a sprawling city to be sure, but not so big as to completely nullify the i3’s ability to go from A to B within its borders.

BMW i3 LAPD Vehicles

[Images: BMW Group]