Transitioning to Electric Patrol Vehicles: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Police Fleet Professional Magazine
2023 F-150 Lightning Pro

There are many things to consider before going down the road of electrifying a patrol fleet. Every department fleet is unique in fleet size, landscape, force size, duty cycle, and political philosophy, all of which play a role with fleet transitioning. Over the past year, local, state, and federal government agencies have been issuing mandates and executive orders to move to electric vehicles. By 2035, all new vehicles sold in California and New York will have to be EVs. Additional states will likely follow suit in the near future. Therefore, whether in agreement or not, the time has come to learn and understand what it will take to move toward electrifying our police fleets and required charging infrastructure.

Things to consider before going electric include but are not limited to: duty cycle, charge time, take-home vehicles, charge time is down time, available electric power, plus funding and grants. The two biggest caveats are availability of vehicles meeting the mission that are safe, and electric power required for charging. EVs need to operate the same way as non-electric vehicles. The mission of the agency should be paramount to transition and govern what vehicles to purchase.

Some pros of greening your fleet are reducing dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil, supporting alternative fuels, and utilization of the U.S. farming industry. Fleet operation costs are lower per mile in electric vehicles versus internal combustion vehicles (ICE). Other cost reductions will be in preventative maintenance, such as the elimination of oil changes and tune-ups. The first service on EVs is usually over 100,000 miles. Some cons are increased vehicle acquisition price, limited range, charge time is out of service time, and currently no law enforcement vehicles are available.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) was passed, which funds the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program. This makes available $5 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to distribute among states to deploy EV charging infrastructure. An additional $2.5 billion in funding is for a discretionary grant program for charging deployment throughout the United States. One of the requirements for states to receive this funding is to construct charging stations having a minimum of four 150Kw chargers per site. Some positive news is the most recently enacted bills will have a point of sale credit, not just a tax rebate. This is very important to government agencies and non-for-profit organizations that do not have tax liabilities.

In order for the transition to electric vehicles to have an effect on climate change, the United States needs to produce green electricity. Governor Hochul wants New York state to be 100 percent green electric generation by 2050. Currently, NYS Electric power is 24 percent hydroelectric, 25 percent nuclear, 9 percent wind and solar, with the remaining production from natural gas and oil. A useful resource to navigate available funding is the website afdc.energy.gov. Sites for additional information and calculations include (AFLEET) Argonne National Lab: jobs EVSE 1.0 Tool and Department of Energy: Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC)’s vehicle search tool, station locator, and more. Likely one of the best resources for information is your local Clean Cities Coalition and Network.

Understanding charging infrastructure requirements will be critical for any department to transition into an electric patrol fleet to meet the needs of the community it serves. Vehicles today have three different levels of charging available for light-duty electric vehicles. Level 1 is a standard 110V to 120V outlet; Level 2 is 220–240 volt standard dryer or electric stove outlet or charging station. Level 1 charging can take days to fully charge. Level 2 may take six to eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle depending on battery size. With both level 1 and 2, charging the vehicle utilizes the onboard charger that converts alternating current AC to direct current DC. The rate of charge is governed by the output of the onboard charger. Level 3 DC fast charging requires an electric supply of 440–480 volts with 100 to 300 Amps. Not all DC fast chargers charge at the same rate. For example, a 50Kw charger could take up to 2.5 hours to fully charge a Ford Mach-E with a 98-Kilowatt hour battery (KWh). In comparison, a 100Kw charger can charge to 80 percent in less than one hour. One of the first things many departments will realize is they do not have the necessary voltage and amperage required for fast charging. This is where some of the biggest costs and investment will incur. A large percentage of locations will need transformers and additional electric service installed. Basic calculations for charging stations is Voltage times Amperage for Wattage (Watts = V x A). So why is this important to understand? Most departments will run into operational concerns with available electric supply issues and delays in construction and permitting. Operational concern is that the charge times will greatly affect how quickly EVs can be charged and available for patrol. Determining what type of charging levels your patrol fleet will need will depend upon adequate downtime or dwell time for each vehicle in comparison to charging.

Some good news is that other than Tesla, all American-made and imported electric vehicles into this country will have a standard Combine Charging System (CCS) connector. The top portion is for type 2 connectors for AC charging. During DC fast charging, both top and bottom sections are utilized to carry high power. Level 3 D/C fast charging comes in many different names and programs. Tesla has its own proprietary chargers with a special plug for Tesla owners, but Tesla owners can use an adapter to use other band or types of chargers. Some of the other programs are Ford Pro, Charge Point, Electrify America, and GM Pilot Flying J.

EV batteries also come in many different sizes and internal materials that seem to be rapidly changing. Battery size will play a role in the operational range of the vehicle and the amount of time to recharge a drained battery. The battery charger in the car converts the AC electricity into DC to charge the battery. If a vehicle has a 10kw onboard charger and a 100kwh battery pack, it takes about 10 hours to fully charge. (Time = Battery capacity’s KWh number / Changer power rating) When the vehicle battery’s State-of-Charge (SoC) is greater than 80 percent, the DC fast charger rate slows considerably; this optimizes battery life and limits the risk of overcharging. This is why manufacturers often claim that fast charging will get you 80 percent in 30 minutes, if charging at 200kw per hour. The last 20 percent could double the time you are hooked up to the fast charger.

Approximate time to charge a Ford Mustang Mach-E extended-range RWD
Approximate time to charge a Ford Mustang Mach-E extended-range RWD

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is fitted with an 11Kw on-board charger for type 1 and 2 charging. Due to voltage differences, the charge time will increase if plugged into a 110/120-volt outlet or decrease when plugged into a 220/240-volt outlet or level 2 charger. To step up or step down voltage, a transformer will be necessary; some locations that do not have 440/480 volts will need a transformer installed. To increase a location’s available current (AMPs), additional service will be required in many cases. The easiest way to understand amperage flow is to think of amps as water. As wire size increases, more amps can be delivered. This is where some of the biggest time delays will come from with permitting and construction.

While initially testing at NYPD, the Mach-E energy usage was between 3 to 5 miles per KWh. EVs will have energy usage data readily available: climate percentage for heat and air conditioning, vehicle percentage for propulsion, percentage for accessories, and percentage for external temperature, which is energy used for battery temperature control. Actual recharge for the Mustang Mach-E on a 50Kw fast charger was 2.5 hours from 15 percent to fully charging a 98KWh battery. EV range changes constantly depending on speed, braking (regen), payload, outside temperature, geographic hill or grade changes, and any other battery energy use during operation. Law enforcement vehicles having roof lights and other response equipment as well as computers and radios will reduce range. A vehicle with a 98KWh battery that gets 3 miles per KWh should get just under 300 miles per full charge. This will be dependent on regenerative braking and other components and equipment utilized.

Why electric? What is the hype? Efficiency is the primary driver of cleaning up the transportation sector. Electric motors make vehicles substantially more efficient than ICE vehicles. Electric motors convert over 85 percent of electrical energy into mechanical energy, or motion, compared to less than 40 percent for gas combustion engines. These efficiencies are even lower after considering losses as heat in the drivetrain, which is the collection of components that translate the power created in an electric motor or combustion engine to the wheels. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), in an EV, about 59–62 percent of electrical energy from the grid goes to turning the wheels, whereas gas combustion vehicles only convert about 17–21 percent of energy from burning fuel into moving the car. This means that an electric vehicle is roughly three times as efficient as an ICE vehicle. Needing less energy to power your vehicle also helps bring down the cost.

EVs are fun to drive because of lots of horsepower and torque. Instant torque is generated by an electric current and magnetic fields in the electric motor, whereas a gas engine takes much longer to combust gas and turn the crankshaft. This instant torque in an EV is what throws you back against the seat when you accelerate from stoplight to stoplight.

Other than charging infrastructure, the biggest delay in transition to fully electric vehicles is availability of EVs and EVs that meet the law enforcement mission. Currently, there are no pursuit-rated or special-service package EVs for law enforcement or police service. Ford brought the Mach-E GT to Michigan State Police Vehicle Testing, and performance was impressive. What was not impressive was the 30 percent reduction in battery charge after 18 miles of high-speed track testing.

Currently, the NYPD only has two EV models in service, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Ford Mach-E Mustang. A fleet of 32 Bolts is assigned to Traffic Control, School Safety, and other non-patrol units. They have been in service for three years now, with very good reviews from both operators and mechanics. An order of 148 Ford Mach-Es was delivered, 40 unmarked and 108 fully marked units. There has not been enough data collected to do any type of fair comparison of cost per mile or maintenance cost as of this time.

Law enforcement vehicles projected within the next two years are the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning Pro SSV and an all-new fully electric 2024 Chevrolet Blazer Police model. There is a rumor that Volvo will be releasing a police model for the United States. Tesla keeps popping up at various departments throughout the United States, but Tesla has not confirmed that they will have a pursuit model anytime soon. Ford is producing E-Transit vans that might be useful for prisoner transport or as a small command post.

With the gauntlet of variables for transitioning to electric vehicles, departments will have to study vehicle utilization. In most cases, it will not be one size fits all for police fleets. A vehicle that would meet the mission for community patrol might not meet the mission for highway patrol. EVs would probably have a better fit on the administrative side and detective squads. Electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure are extremely dynamic and fluid, and within the next couple of years, the crystal ball may become clearer. My suggestion to all fleet managers is to start a pilot program, get your feet wet with EVs, and collect your own data.

The Good

  • Lower Maintenance Cost
  • More Economical
  • Reduced Emissions
  • Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels
  • Reduced Dependency on Foreign Oil
  • Reduced Noise
  • Regenerative Breaking
  • Utility Bill Discounts for Charging at Home
  • Super Fast
  • Fun to Drive
  • One-Pedal Drive

The Bad

  • Vehicle Availability
  • Electric Grid Capabilities
  • Charge Time
  • Range Anxiety
  • Pre-Conditioning

The Ugly

  • Government Mandates
  • All Eggs in One Basket
  • Cyber Security
  • Electric Grid
  • Police Equipment
  • No Police Vehicles Availability Currently

The Latest from PFP

Rugged laptops

Fall 2023 Rugged Laptops for Police Vehicles

PFE 2023 highlights

Highlights from Police Fleet Expo 2023 

Vehicle upfit

Planning Your Next Vehicle Upfit…Do-It-Yourself or Outsource?