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Video: Eden Prairie Police Go Green with New Tesla Patrol Car

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Sept. 27, 2021Eden Prairie, a city on the western edge of the Twin Cities metropolitan area in Minnesota, has been on the forefront of municipal energy efficiency for almost two decades.

As electric vehicles become more prominent, more reliable and more affordable across the globe with every passing year, they became the logical next step for Eden Prairie’s green initiative. 

Earlier this year, the town purchased a Tesla Model Y police squad car, the first fully electric vehicle in the city’s fleet. 

Gerald Byington, fleet services manager for the city, says getting the city's municipal council on board with the decision to purchase the vehicle wasn't all that challenging. 

“They wanted to go electric anyway," Byington says. "Getting them to understand the cost comparison was the hardest part of getting them to purchase a Tesla because if something happens to it, it’s going to cost a little more to repair it, but over the long term, they found where the savings are really going to help."

The city began researching the possibility of purchasing a Tesla as a fleet vehicle back in the second half of 2019, though at that time the EV manufacturer didn't have a large enough vehicle that would be able to fulfill what the city was looking for. Once the larger Model Y came out in March 2020, Eden Prairie officials gave the police department the OK.

The Eden Prairie Police ordered a base Model Y later in 2020, but because it was a standard model, the department had order several custom additions to the newest addition to the fleet. 

Push bumpers, lights, a barred partition between the front and back seats and other modifications were made in order to get the new cruiser up to law enforcement standards.

“We wanted to be able to make sure that it can do the same things as every other vehicle in the fleet," Patrol Sergeant Scott Mittelstatd says. "If we can do it with zero emissions, it’s that much better."

Mittelstatd says driving the Model Y has taken a little getting used to, as most of the functions of the vehicle are activated by and operated through its onboard digital display.

"There is a little bit of a learning curve with it. It doesn’t function exactly the same as every other vehicle. Even something as simple as putting it into drive or reverse has a little bit of a different feel," Mittelstatd says. "But the nuts and bolts of it, getting from A to B, it works just as well as any other vehicle in the fleet, which is what we wanted it to do."

Once the car is on the road, though, it holds its own. Thanks to standard all-wheel drive and a range of more than 300 miles, the Model Y can practically and efficiently operate throughout harsh Minnesota winters. 

And with a top speed of around 150 MPH and the ability to go from zero to 60 in under four seconds, Mittelstad says the Tesla may very well have the fastest off-the-line speed in the fleet.

"It’s been one pursuit that I know of, but it was a very short-lived pursuit and it didn’t get to the potential of the vehicle’s speed yet," he says, "but I’m sure in time it’ll face that challenge and we’re looking forward to seeing how it does there."

In addition to reducing emissions, the vehicle should save the city upward of $3,000 over its lifetime.

Byington says most of the tesla’s standard maintenance should be able to be handled by the city’s maintenance team. For issues that the team can’t handle, the vehicle is covered under an extensive warranty from Tesla.

The city has already made significant investments in charging infrastructure at the station and in public, and Byington says the Tesla is just the first of many EVs that will be added to the city’s fleet.

"As the technology moves up, we’re moving along with it," Byington says. "The city has a goal of being fully electric by 2050, which may be a little forward goal, but it might be attainable the way the technology is moving forward."

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