The Vermont State Police, Vermont Department of Public Safety (DPS), Brattleboro Police Department (BPD), and Windham County Sheriff’s Office are all experimenting with electric or hybrid vehicles, hoping to save on fuel and maintenance and to reduce their environmental footprint.
Of the three departments, the State Police are making the largest purchase, three Ford Hybrid vehicles for direct police use. DPS is purchasing two hybrid vehicles for civilian members of the Department. BPD has also requested the Brattleboro Select Board to authorize the purchase of a Ford hybrid. The Ford hybrid is not electric-powered while going down the road. Instead, it uses its large battery to power heat, air conditioning, emergency lights, and other equipment, and especially to reduce idling. Since a BPD vehicle averages four hours of idling a day over two eight-hour shifts, this represents a large fuel savings, approximately 380 gallons a year. A gallon of gas releases roughly 19 pounds of CO2 when burned; Brattleboro’s vehicle alone could prevent the release of 7,220 pounds of carbon a year, 28,8000 pounds over the projected four-year life of the vehicle.
The Ford hybrids are not pursuit-rated vehicles, and won’t be used by road troopers. Currently manufacturers don’t make such a vehicle.
Separately, the Windham County Sheriff, based in Newfane, has purchased a Tesla Model 3 to replace one of the Department’s cruisers. Sheriff Mark Anderson regards this as a pilot project, and it is one molded by the unique conditions of the 2020 pandemic. Normal vendors of police cruisers—Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge—have delayed production until 2021; the vehicle Anderson is replacing is estimated to need $7,000 in repairs to keep it going that long.
Alternative energy vehicles had been on Anderson’s mind, so he contacted Tesla and learned that he could get a car in four to six weeks. The numbers worked. No oil changes are needed, no gas to purchase, a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty on the car, and an eight-year, 130,000-mile warranty on the battery and drivetrain. Though the initial purchase price was $47,990, considerably over the $40,000 Anderson had intended to spend, the savings per mile were also considerable; three to four cents for electric vs. ten to twenty cents for gas. Anderson’s analysis showed that the Tesla could save approximately 80% of the costs of running a gas vehicle, typically between $4,000 and $8,000 per year.
Like the Ford hybrids, the Tesla will not be used as a pursuit or patrol vehicle initially, as the department learns about what changes are needed to the culture, infrastructure, policy and training. It will have police lights and a radio, and will be capable of responding to calls.
The car is generating some excitement in the area. Anderson has had many conversations about it, including having people say they’d be interested in working for the department solely because of the Tesla. He is currently working with Green Mountain Power to get a level 2 electric vehicle charger installed. While initially intended to charge the department vehicles, the department is open to a conversation with the County, Town and Village about hosting a public charging station.
Anderson is the first sheriff in the nation with a Tesla, and only twelve police departments are known to have put Teslas into active service. Anderson regards this as a pilot program and doesn’t expect to replace all his vehicles with electric yet. “Law enforcement has a high demand on automobiles and to find a way to reduce our carbon footprint is big,” he says.
Special thanks to Bob Audette and the Brattleboro Reformer for their reporting on this story.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Vermont.