Boulder sheriff’s new Tesla said to be about cutting costs and carbon, not luxury

By: - August 19, 2021 8:36 am

A picture of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Tesla Model Y, courtesy of Boulder County. (Screenshot).

Boulder might want to downplay its image of privilege and wealth. But the local sheriff’s new ride, a Tesla Model Y, may not help.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office will begin testing a Tesla as a patrol vehicle, the office announced in a press release on Aug. 16. 

The press release defends the sheriff’s decision to use a Tesla, acknowledging that while many people consider Teslas “luxury vehicles,” Tesla’s mission has been the “proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) into the mainstream market. As such, Tesla vehicle prices have become much more affordable in recent years. Additionally, the specifications are comparable to the current Ford Police Interceptor (PI) SUVs currently in use for patrol, while providing exceptional safety, performance and reliability.” 

A picture of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Tesla Model Y. (Courtesy of Boulder County)

The test vehicle will be the 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range. The office’s current patrol vehicles are Ford Police Interceptor SUVs. While the initial cost of a Tesla is higher than the Ford, “research and anecdotal evidence” shows that the initial cost difference is made up within six to 18 months “due to the significantly lower operating and ownership cost of the Tesla,” according to the press release.

The Ford Police Interceptors cost about $2,653 more per year to operate than the Tesla will, the press release states. This is partly because law enforcement vehicles spend a lot of time stopping and starting suddenly, as well as idling, which results in a lot of wear and tear on the engine. The Tesla is expected to have a longer service life “due to the simplicity of design and lack of moving parts,” according to the press release. 

Over the average life of a current patrol vehicle, the Ford’s fuel and maintenance costs equates to about $0.187 per mile, the release says. The sheriff’s office estimates that the Tesla Model Y’s operating and maintenance costs will equate to about $0.029 per mile.

Photo of a current Boulder County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle, courtesy of Sheriff Joe Pelle.

Over the years, Boulder county has taken several initiatives to be eco-friendly, including adopting the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance in 2015, which requires business owners to separate recyclables and compostables from trash, and to provide composting, landfill and recycling collection services, and implementing the Sustainable Energy Plan. The Tesla will continue Boulder’s eco-friendly mission, as the Tesla will be more environmentally friendly than the current vehicles, according to the press release.

“Boulder County has always strived to be eco-friendly in all our operations, and we continue that commitment by being one of the first, if not the first law enforcement agency in the State of Colorado to bring a Tesla Model Y into our patrol fleet. Additionally, a portion of the vehicle’s charging will be offset by electricity provided from solar panels, reducing its carbon footprint even more,” the press release states. 

Other law enforcement agencies in the country have deployed Teslas as patrol vehicles. Earlier this year, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington selected a Tesla Model 3 as the test vehicle for its pilot project. The Tesla is expected to begin patrolling the county by the end of the year, according to a press release from Snohomish County. The office picked the Tesla Model 3, an all-electric vehicle, as the pilot project vehicle after extensive research. “The vehicle was the most suitable in meeting the needs for patrol and was more affordable in comparison to other all-electric vehicles,” the press release states.

In Minnesota, the Eden Prairie Police Department selected the Tesla Model Y as part of its vehicle fleet in July. “The EPPD is excited to deploy our first fully electric patrol car this week, which will be used for traffic enforcement and various other patrol functions,” Police Chief Matt Sackett said in a press release. “Based on our research, as well as anecdotes from police departments across the country that have started using them, we anticipate a high level of performance and low maintenance costs from our Tesla Model Y.” 

In 2019, the Westport Police Department in Connecticut purchased a Tesla Model 3, and began using it in its pilot program in Feb. 2020, according to a press release. After a year, the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut released a report stating that the Tesla will have saved enough money after four years to purchase another Tesla. The report also found that the Tesla did not require as much maintenance. 


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.