Home » Why The Tesla Model Y Cop Car Makes Perfect Sense

Why The Tesla Model Y Cop Car Makes Perfect Sense

Tesla Model Y Police Car Topshot 1024x576x
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Unplugged Performance has a pretty cool history. For a decade, this Californian firm has been building some of the fastest Teslas on the face of the planet, from Pikes Peak-challenging hillclimb cars to more traditional time attack scorchers. However, now the firm is looking to diversify in a big way — by creating a division called UPfit and building Tesla Model Y police cars.

Tesla Model Y Police Car Front

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Police cars are pretty much an ideal use case for electric vehicles. This sounds a bit strange, but it all comes down to idle hours. From revenue–I’m sorry, speed enforcement to street patrols, much of a police car’s life involves sitting stationary, blasting the heat or air conditioning. Not only are combustion-powered cars incredibly inefficient in this use case, but idle hours are hard on engines. During the era of the Crown Victoria, Ford claimed that one idle hour was equivalent to around 31 miles of driving, and that doesn’t even paint the whole picture when it comes to engine wear and cooling. How much do you trust your radiator fans? In contrast, an EV simply pulls power from its high-voltage pack using a step-down converter to run heating, air conditioning, and vehicle electronics when not moving, meaning the wear on the vehicle isn’t significant.

Tesla Model Y Police Car Front Cabin

Oh, and that’s before we even get into fuel economy. At idle, a combustion engine is getting zero miles per gallon. In contrast, the drain put on an electric vehicle by running the climate control pales in comparison to the energy needed to drive at highway speeds, so score one for EVs. Plus, EVs are great at running the always-on gear that’s become a routine part of policing.

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Tesla Model Y Police Car Dashboard

So why Tesla Model Ys? Well, for a start, they’re available. Plenty of examples are already on the ground, ready to be bought by consumers and fleets alike. Second, the Model Y has sheer volume and time on its side. While many automakers have taken a ride on the rising electric vehicle tide, Tesla has been making tons of Model Ys for years, giving plenty of reliability data to pull from. For critical equipment, known quantities are often better than unknown quantities. Finally, Teslas are what Unplugged Performance specializes in. If you’re already good at something, why change too much?

Tesla Model Y Police Car Rear

The UPfit cop-spec Model Y is expensive at $91,990 fully-upfitted. However, the manufacturer still claims $7,000 in savings over buying an upfitted Ford Police Interceptor Utility, and that’s before you even get into lifetime cost savings. Oh, and everything from K-9-specific accommodations to NIJ III+ armoring is on the menu. It’s an argument good enough for the city of South Pasadena, which has just ordered 20 of the juiced-up cop cars.

(Photo credits: UPfit)

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Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago

“From revenue–I’m sorry, speed enforcement”

Sounds like someone’s still miffed by their contribution to the city coffers.

Stephen Dillard
Stephen Dillard
10 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

What’s your favorite flavor of boot?

Scott
Scott
10 months ago

Though I grok that an idling ICE car (of any kind) is getting zero MPG, it’s getting something (engine on to power the HVAC) so maybe it’d be fairer to say that it gets X minutes (or hours) of HVAC per gallon or something?

South Pasadena, home of the famed Rialto theater, has some pretty tony neighborhoods (as well as some visibly less so) thus I presume that they’ve got sufficient funds to blow a couple million on a fleet of Model Xs. I’ve always been under the impression that the gullwing doors tended to be a bit of an ongoing liability in these cars… I can’t help but wonder how often the rear doors on your average patrol car get opened/closed compared to privately used cars… are some percentage of SP’s fleet of Teslas always going to be offline while waiting for service to deal with wind/water leaks and rattles from those huge doors?

Brynjaminjones
Brynjaminjones
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott

This is the Model Y, which has conventional doors, not the Model X.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
10 months ago

Seems like a Mach-e is the better choice

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
10 months ago
Reply to  Wolfpack57

“Seems” is the key word here. Please add some qualifiers.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
10 months ago

I don’t know where they get a figure of nearly $100k for a fully upfitted (marked unit with a cage, etc.) Police Interceptor Utility. It comes in at about 2/3 of that, and a hybrid PIU also uses no fuel while sitting.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
10 months ago

I’d like to see if they actually pass any of the requirements to be Pursuit rated, rather than a Special Service Vehicle.
Most notable is that it must complete 32 laps around Grattan raceway at full pace in 8 lap increments with 5 minutes of rest time in between, not to mention curb strikes at speed, cargo carrying capabity, and a host of other unique requirements. Here’s the MSP’s latest eval. LA County Sheriffs do a similar test, but at AutoClub Speedway.
https://www.michigan.gov/msp/-/media/Project/Websites/msp/training/MY2023PoliceVehicleEvaluationTestBook.pdf?rev=34684fb215c54dfe9bddfd4b8043f7a0&hash=D6CCDA455006A665813B148066B5724E

Last edited 10 months ago by Anthony Magagnoli
Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
10 months ago

The university I work at purchased a Model Y police car and made a big deal about it. It now mostly sits unused because the combination of large humans plus all the associated gear they are required to wear doesn’t allow them to fit into the tight seats. Student paper did a whole article on it being a waste and then they had to go out and buy a new Suburban interceptor so that they would be able to fit, I kid you not… This is the kind of thinking & money management that has us running huge deficits year over year and why I am leaving higher education entirely after today.

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
10 months ago

Also just realized the site changed my user name to my real name, WTF?

Chris with bad opinions
Chris with bad opinions
10 months ago

It did that to me too. Thankfully, it was easy to change.

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
10 months ago

It was easy to change, just wondering when that happened and how long my real name was next to all my posts…

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
10 months ago

I am wondering, for how long you have been posting comments that you are not comfortable are associated with your real name?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

You post under your real name? Are you insane?

Jb996
Jb996
10 months ago

Your real name is Idiot_with_a_garage ?!!

Did your parent’s not like you? But at least they planned to make sure you had a garage!

(Yes, I know you have since updated it to not actually show your name.)

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
10 months ago
Reply to  Jb996

Actually my full name is Idiot Witherspoon Agarage. I just shorten it for my online handles

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
10 months ago

It now mostly sits unused because the combination of large humans plus all the associated gear they are required to wear doesn’t allow them to fit into the tight seats. “

The seating in the Model Y is not tight unless the security people they’re employing are morbidly obese.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
10 months ago

Officers tend to be pretty big, they work out but sit around all day. Most I know are 200lb minimum and many are tall. Then strap on the body armor and hip belt and they are seriously bulky.

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
10 months ago

They are university cops on a small campus. Fitness isn’t a requirement of the position. Fill in the blanks 🙂

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
10 months ago

Belt full’o’gear adds a very awkward several inches to the hip/waist area. Extra mags, baton, cuffs, & firearm at a minimum and even a slim person gets bulky fast.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
10 months ago

A very real possibility.

First Last
First Last
10 months ago

Love this. Tesla baggage aside, the duty cycle of the average urban/suburban police car seems tailor made for a BEV. Mostly city driving, tons of stop and go and idling, but with the occasional need for massive acceleration. All within a limited geography / precinct.

IMO an ICE car with a huge V8 is objectively the wrong tool for that job.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago

Oh, fuck no!

It is hard enough to tell the difference between cop Explorers and soccer mom Explorers. Now I’m going to have distinguish between cop Teslas and tech-bro/babe Teslastans?!? I live in Austin, Model Ys are like every third car!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago

What are you doing that makes this such an issue for you?

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
10 months ago

Any know how long an EV can sit with it’s heat on, running a computer, radio, etc. and still have range left to drive?
What about in the winter when the high temp is about 20 degrees?

Seems like is could/should work but the fact that this company is in CA makes me wonder if this would really work anywhere it gets cold.

RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
10 months ago

My wife left the AC running in my Model 3 on a 100°F day for 4 hours. She ate lunch in it and forgot to turn the AC off. It used 1% of battery per hour. I figure with all the police gear drawing power, that may bump up to 2% per hour. I have no clue about cold temperature power consumption. With the heat pump system, I would expect similar power draw for heating and cooling assuming the same inside/outside temperature differential.

The 5.7 Hemi burns ~1/2 gallon of fuel per hour while idling. With today’s fuel prices, that’s ~$2/hour in fuel. With an EV, it’s ~$0.28/hour to idle at the national average electric rate.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago

Its also worth noting that you can run the HVAC while plugged in which won’t affect range at all.

Who Knows
Who Knows
10 months ago

Depends on the heater power, the Bolt on full power heating for both the battery and cabin can use about 7 kW, which would pretty well drain the battery in ~8 hours, but it isn’t efficient, as it is uninsulated under the hood, so has a lot of heat loss. More typical continuous use would be in the 2-4 kW range for 0-20F temps, which would use ~ half the battery over 10 hours. If the batteries didn’t need heating, a 1-2 kW inside the cabin heater would be good down to sub 0F, which wouldn’t have a terrible impact over 10 hours. There is a lot of improvement possible, as once it gets down below about 10F and the battery heating kicks in, even with the heat “turned off”, there is so much residual heat coming in the vents that I sometimes have to cycle the defrost on and off to avoid getting too hot (while my feet freeze). I don’t know how much the electronics use, but considering my desktop computer pulls about 100W, I doubt that the electronics would use even 1 kW, and would have very minimal drain over the course of a day.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
10 months ago

Wait, so they’re basically building a car that is prone to crashing into itself?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
10 months ago

Makes total sense from a TCO perspective.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
10 months ago

I’ve been saying for years that most officers should be driving minivans. Easy ingress/egress for the driver and for anyone in the back. Lots of space for mounting computers/gear/whatever.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
10 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

My department does use a couple minivans, mostly for transports and fugitive work but they’re there, we even have a couple 15 passenger Ford Transits we use for the same purpose. As fas as the utility of the back for equipment goes, the traditional trunk is actually quicker in an emergency to get into, and the department doesn’t have to put in a second barrier inside the car yo keep a violent person from accessing it, not everyone I’ve had to arrest or transport has been violent sometimes you just need to take an 80 year old parolee to the medical supply store so he can get a fresh oxygen tank.

I think the electric would work well in this case for a typical local PDs, but it won’t be the perfect fit for everybody, highway patrol for instance, as some departments do a lot of long distance travel where the limited range without a long charge break would be a factor.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
10 months ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

I have already seen a few law enforcement EVs. A department in suburban Atlanta has a Model S that is used for routine patrols. It is supposedly quite a bit cheaper to operate than an ICE vehicle, and it wasn’t particularly expensive since it was bought used. It was weird to see a police Tesla at first, but after seeing it a few times it seems perfectly normal. Another department in a different Atlanta suburb has a few Zero motorcycles. These are mostly used to patrol a large network of trails, but they were also used for traffic enforcement and other tasks.

Obviously, highway patrols and rural departments probably can’t go EV any time soon, but I suspect EVs could replace a majority of vehicles. I could see it being cost effective for a lot of agency fleets to include both EVs and ICE vehicles.

Last edited 10 months ago by Stig's Cousin
Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
10 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Plus there is nothing more stealth than a Dodge Caravan. Nobody sees that coming.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
10 months ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

That’s exactly what we have. It’s just a white caravan with no police markings or anything, just the dinkiest pair of red an blues up by the passenger side sun visor and two 1 inch squares in the back window. It made it a little hairy for me stopping at a nasty 4 car wreck on the freeway but thankfully mine wasn’t the only police vehicle in the area at the time.

As an aside that crash involved a corolla turning 90 degrees into the side of a big rig, pushing the rig into the next lane and sideswiping a nissan quest which then forced an r53 mini up the right side jersey barrier and sent it cartwheeling a couple times over. The only injury was the airhead in the corolla that set the whole thing off sprained her wrist when she cranked the wheel into the truck. The 16y.o. girl in the mini came out without a scratch and the doors and hatch even opened without any trouble, and the old ladies in the minivan were laughing about it all within a couple minutes.

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
10 months ago

Back when I was running durability validation tests for OEMs one of the tests was a thousand hour idle. Low oil pressure can show up problems that high load and high speed testing won’t find.

We had one engine that wore the cam lobes away after 20 hours. The supplier had skipped hardening the cams to save time.

Lokki
Lokki
10 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

Captain, I salute you for your discretion in not calling out Chevrolet by name.

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
10 months ago
Reply to  Lokki

It’s not discretion, I’m just really scared of lawyers.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

Somewhere out there a lowly overworked, unpaid legal assistant’s intern is typing up a subpoena for one “Captain Muppet”.

Old Busted Hotness
Old Busted Hotness
10 months ago

I’m wondering how the charging is going to work. Police cars are in use 24/7 except for maintenance and repairs. They don’t get a lot of downtime. Put Superchargers in Dunkin Donuts?

Space
Space
10 months ago

Maybe it’s just my jurisdiction but I see loads of police vehicles not in use. Take homes and parked at the city facility, both potentially charge locations.

Mitch
Mitch
10 months ago

I can only speak from my experience as someone who is good friends with a smaller town (50k pop) officer. He says there is a lot of down time. A large portion of policing is presence. A road, or intersection with a lot of dangerous speeding or stop signs being run, is usually somewhere they will station a car. This is not only to ticket said speeders and stop sign runners, but just the act of the car being there for a few days to a week will be enough to affect traffic conditions. People begin to think “Oh, there’s always a cop here, I better slow down.” even after the car is no longer present. At least for a while.

Secondly there’s a lot of paperwork involved in the general day to day work that is typically done in the car. For every arrest, or even traffic stop not resulting in a citation, they are supposed to write it up. This gives officers several opportunities throughout a shift to park at a supercharger for half and hour and fill up most of the way.

This does however leave the issue of the charger itself. Sure, a car can sit at a popular intersection and monitor traffic while charging, but if someone flies through the intersection and needs to be pulled over, the officer will now have to get out, go unplug, and get back in before chasing.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
10 months ago
Reply to  Mitch

I presume it would be possible to design some kind of quick disconnect for police vehicles. Maybe something that automatically disconnects charging cables when drive is selected?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Mitch

“but if someone flies through the intersection and needs to be pulled over, the officer will now have to get out, go unplug, and get back in before chasing.”

I had no idea there were charging stations right at intersections. I thought they tended to be buried in parking lots and garages.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
10 months ago

Many departments issue cars to specific officers so they only get used by that officer for their shift. Wish mine did but my administration flatly refuses, we just get whatever happens to be available on the day first come, first served.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

Great, another reason that cop cars will ignore traffic signals.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I know right.. so what you’ve got to deal with some unhinged lunatic parading through an apartment complex with an axe. That domestic abuse call will work itself out.
I’ve got Fudgsicles melting in a grocery bag in my trunk.
Wait in line like the rest of us you entitled asshole with a badge.. doing a difficult job.

Last edited 10 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago

something something cops behave too much like Elon Musk something…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Do they? I’ve been on the wrong side of a patrol cars B pillar more times than I’d like to admit. They are just people.

Me: “I didn’t know you guys were still driving Chevy Impala’s.”

Cop: “We aren’t, just me. This is the last one left in the motor pool.

Me: “Who’d you piss off back at the station?”

Cop: “I chose this. I’d rather be driving a Crown Vic.”

Me: “I’d rather you were driving one of those too. There’d be so much more legroom back here.”

Cop: (barely audible snicker)

B3n
B3n
10 months ago

I guess it could be fine for securing construction zones but how’s the range in a high speed chase scenario?
It would be pretty embarrassing if officers had to stop mid-pursuit due to low battery.

Mr.Rubbins
Mr.Rubbins
10 months ago
Reply to  B3n

Since when did tesla point to right wing lol

OldDrunkenSailor
OldDrunkenSailor
10 months ago
Reply to  B3n

Radios always travel further and faster than vehicles, so there really isn’t a case for single officers chasing down baddies. Also, if an ICE vehicle ran out of gas, the offender would be long gone by the time the officer got back into the pursuit. It’s really a scenario for superhero movies and less-so reality.

Also worth pointing out that after a large number of deaths (criminals and people who happen to get in their way in traffic) due to high speed pursuits, a great many police departments don’t engage in them and instead focused knowledge on the previously mentioned speed of radio communication. Interesting topic to dig into, I suggest a few min of googling about it.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  B3n

I imagine range in a high speed chase to be about 1/3 to 1/4 that of the rated EPA highway range. Consider it an educated guess. It will get comparable range on a race track as it would in a chase.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

And the really good acceleration might give them an edge to catch up to most vehicles pretty quick.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

In my hood, the “gold standard” vehicle for losing the cops is a Dodge Charger Hellcat. I often see them driving without registration, stickers, or plates, because what are the cops going to do? They can’t catch them. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“In my hood, the “gold standard” vehicle for losing the cops is a Dodge Charger Hellcat. I often see them driving without registration, stickers, or plates, because what are the cops going to do? They can’t catch them. And it’s a beautiful thing.”

Is it though?

Last edited 10 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
10 months ago
Reply to  B3n

Most pursuits last a few minutes at most. As someone already said, high speed pursuits are heavily discouraged. I doubt many department policies would allow for a chase that is long enough for range to become an issue.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
10 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

I can’t speak for everyone, but my departments have both had strict no pursuit policies unless there are exigent circumstances and someone’s life is in danger, like a DV kidnapping situation. Motorola is quicker than that Charger or Crown Vic, isolate and contain to keep the violent ones away from everybody else. We actually had an officer get canned because he decided to try to chase a parolee, not a fugitive mind you just someone that he thought was acting high, and ended up burying a brand new charger up to it’s doors in freshly poured concrete. Cost the department over six figures to fix the road surface he wiped out.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago
Reply to  B3n

I guess the ASP needs to buy a couple and find out 😉

See how they hold up in Arkansas

ScottyB
ScottyB
10 months ago

An EV makes sense, but any brand other than a Tesla, because of what it stands for now. You don’t want your police department driving around in something that overtly screams right-wing. PDs have enough image problems as it is.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

Tesla so far has built the most reliable and longest lasting EVs, at least of those available in the U.S. BYD could give them a good run for their money, but that’s only after Wikileaks exposed BYD for stealing Tesla’s and other manufacturer’s tech a decade or so ago, and BYD’s products aren’t readily available stateside anyhow.

The other manufacturers have a lot of catching up to do.

I Could but Meh
I Could but Meh
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

I doubt that would override the benefits, but there’s also no car company around that carries more baggage than the cops themselves. Their image is “safe”.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

Agree 1000%. Also, cops don’t need to drive a ‘luxury brand’. Give them Chevy Bolts. I don’t think cops need to be in huge giant vehciles sucking tax payer paid for gas, so I agree give them EVs since they sit on their asses and eat donuts the majority of the time, when they aren’t harassing the general public for going mildly above outdated speed limits.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Around here, cops harass me for riding my “bicycle”. It’s amusing when they find that there isn’t much they can do about it, but super-annoying for all of the times I get pulled over in it.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

No, no, a right-wing fascist-mobile that comes with red, white, and black armbands would be 100% on point for pretty much every police department in the US.

And fuck everyone who wants to claim that cops are ‘good people’ doing a ‘hard job.’ Motherfucker, I personally witnessed a gaggle of officers locally where one said in reference to Obama visiting that he wished he had a sniper rifle to shoot him. And the other officers agreeing and suggesting locations.

ACAB and ACCAB.

Lokki
Lokki
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Man – stick to talking about cars, okay?

There are plenty of other places to talk about other things.

Last edited 10 months ago by Lokki
ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Lokki

Cops harass people who drive cool cars.

They are the enemy. Instead of going after people who don’t signal, they harass people going 10 over a limit set in 1965 back when cars had bias ply tires, drum brakes, leaf springs, and lap belts. But yup, going 10+ over in your car with sticky radials, 4 wheel disc with upgraded pads and rotors, dialed in suspension, that’s endangering everyone.

Just ignore the Karen in the CUV not signaling tho. F the PD.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

anecdote ≠  data

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Both anecdote and data can be manipulated, exaggerated, and/or fabricated.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I love your energy. Statistically, Pizza Deliver Drivers = More Dangerous Job than Police Officers.

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

I’d rather see my local cops in a Tesla than military cosplay armored SWAT Incident Response Vehicles.

86-GL
86-GL
10 months ago
Reply to  ScottyB

Better than a lifted armoured truck.

Obviously Elon has been showing his whole fascist-ass of late, but if you ask a random person on the street to describe the an average Tesla driver, I bet you’ll still get some combination of the below 9 times out of 10:

-college educated
-upper middle class
-Liberal/ Democrat
-environmentalist
-techie

I’m sure the vocal stans are more aligned with Elon and his rhetoric, but the vast majority of Tesla buyers just wanted a usable electric car, and they were the only serious option for a while.

Entirely anecdotal of course- but only 1 out of 5 people I personally know who own a Tesla could be considered vaguely right wing.

Last edited 10 months ago by 86-GL
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