A very large number of vehicles belong to public and commercial fleets. Unlike private cars, which are often used to commute back and forth in the morning and evening, these are often driven around all day, making fuel a major expenditure and their contribution to air pollution and global warming disproportionate to their numbers.
But fleets are also a great point of leverage for change. Rather than having to convince thousands of individuals separately to take the plunge and try a new greener technology, convincing a handful of fleet operators can result in thousands and thousands of plug-in vehicles being deployed. The main hurdles are to convince these fleet operators that the new vehicles can do the job and that they make financial sense (taxpayers or shareholders won't be happy otherwise). We're still in the early days of that process, but thankfully good fleet operators tend to have a long-term view and skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is right now (to bring out that overused but nonetheless wise saying by Wayne Gretzky).
So electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids might not be quite right for the job today; prices might be a bit too high and/or range might be a bit too low, but in a few years those issues will no longer be a problem. This is especially true for fleets of vehicles that spend all day, every day, on the road. For those the fuel and maintenance costs can often dwarf the initial outlay of cash to buy the vehicles. Since electricity is much cheaper than gasoline (and who knows where oil prices will be in a few years) and EVs are mechanically simpler and require less maintenance (no oil changes, brake pads don't wear much thanks to magnetic regenerative braking), the math will make sense soon if it doesn't already make sense today. So no time to waste in getting familiar with plug-in vehicles!
This is exactly what the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has started doing, starting with a Tesla Model S and a BMW i3. The city said the two high-end electric police cars will be used for testing and research by LAPD technical experts to determine how electric cars can support their future needs.
The city says it plans to lease 160 pure electric vehicles of different makes and models, which will make it the nation's largest fleet of electric vehicles. It declined to say which vehicles it will purchase.
The electric vehicles will be used by a variety of departments beyond police, including the fire department, general services, water and power. The city will also get 128 plug-in hybrid vehicles which can run on electric batteries or gasoline.
"Today, we take another step toward becoming the most sustainable city in America," said Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Don't expect to get arrested by an electric car quite yet, though. The LAPD has said that the cars are loaned - so no high-speed chases! - and will primarily be used for events and exhibitions. In other words, they are still assessing the EVs and won't put them in regular service at this point.