The Eden Prairie Police Department has added an outfitted Tesla to its fleet, likely becoming the first in the state to do so.
The fully electric 2021 Model Y first hit west metro roads on patrol this week. Though the $52,290 sticker price is more than double the standard Dodge Charger, officials say the Tesla's estimated total life cycle is more cost effective and aligns with the city's sustainability goals.
"It sure seems to be turning a lot of heads," said Chief Matthew Sackett.
The City Council approved the purchase last fall, and the midsize SUV was recently delivered and fully outfitted. Sackett said the Tesla replaced a Charger, one of a 26-vehicle fleet, that was due for replacement.
Sackett said there has been a lot of support from the community and council, which he said "is really what drove this project."
"They obviously have a driving desire to do what we can for sustainability," he said.
Eden Prairie has been buying hybrid vehicles for city departments for the past decade, and has a dozen among its 129 light-duty vehicles. The Tesla Model Y is the city's first fully electric vehicle.
The total life cycle cost of the Tesla is about $56,000, compared with the Dodge Charger's nearly $59,000. While a Tesla will emit about 15.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide during its life, the Charger will emit more than 82 metric tons.
Eden Prairie, home to one of Minnesota's two Tesla showrooms, worked closely with the Police Department in Fremont, Calif., the location of Tesla's manufacturing plant, to initiate the pilot program.
Fremont was one of the first cities in the country to do a pilot with the Tesla Model S sedan, and Sackett said officials there are getting ready to launch a Model Y soon. In December, the Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., Police Department introduced a Model Y to its detective division.
Sackett said Eden Prairie police started researching Teslas in the summer of 2019. They test drove a Model S, but he said they weren't comfortable with the size and configuration. Last year, sights were set on a Model Y, which Sackett said turned out to be a "much more viable option for functionality."
On an average shift, an Eden Prairie squad car travels between 100 and 150 miles. Sackett said the Tesla Model Y can travel about 300 miles before returning to the police station, which is now equipped with a charging station.
"We have every reason to believe it should go a full shift," he said.
But Sackett said it remains to be seen how cold weather affects performance. Part of the Tesla pilot program in Eden Prairie is looking at functionality in different climates.
Over the next 100,000 miles, the agency will evaluate performance, maintenance and operational costs to determine suitability for further implementation. "We're not going to go buy 20 of them tomorrow. We want to make sure it's the best use for our operations and right for the city," Sackett said.
The department announced the Tesla pilot program on Twitter earlier this week, drawing reactions from other police departments and local officials.
"After 100,000 miles hand it down to us so we can put it through the 'out-state' police test," the New Ulm Police Department responded.
Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, shared a clip of John Travolta singing "it's electrifyin'!" from the movie "Grease." Laura Bishop, former commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, tweeted "nice job," adding that she's proud to see cities addressing climate change.
During the Tesla's first Sunday shift, Sackett said one sergeant drove it to a couple of calls near a mall. While people stopped to take pictures with the new electric vehicle, Sackett said "it's not a showpiece."
"We want to have a functional police car because we use them, we need them, we want them to work like it should," he said. "The pilot will help determine that."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751