LAPD Snubs Expensive Teslas, Will Purchase 100 BMW i3 Electric Cars For Community Outreach

Tesla might be the first name you think of when the topic of electric vehicles comes up, but being popular doesn't always guarantee victory. Case in point, German automaker BMW beat Tesla by winning a contract to supply the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) with a flee of electric cars for its community outreach program and other police business.

The LAPD will lease 100 of BMW's all-electric i3 vehicles, which effectively doubles the number of electric cars that are collectively in use by different departments in the city. None of these are used for patrol or for hot pursuit—those activities still rely on good old fashioned gasoline powered vehicles.

BMW i3

Tesla had a shot at winning the contract over BMW. According to the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD had been testing Tesla's P85D, an older version of the Model S that's no longer in production. The LAPD considered leasing or even purchasing a newer model, the P90D, but ultimately decided that leasing BMW's i3 was a better bet.

Economics likely played a big role in that decision. BMW's i3 isn't as powerful as Tesla's P90D, but with an MSRP in the range of $42,000, it's less than half the price—the starting cash cost of a P90D is $109,500.

The LAPD isn't buying BMW's i3 cars, but is instead leasing them at a reported cost of $387 per month. It's a three year lease that adds up to around $1.4 million for all 100 vehicles. That includes maintenance and repairs. The cost of gas obviously won't be a factor, though the LAPD will have to spend another $1.5 million on charging stations.

While the current crop of electric vehicles won't be used for patrol, that's the direction Police Chief Charlie Beck sees this going. To that end, LAPD has been working with BMW, Tesla, and other car makers to build electric vehicles more suitable for high speed police chases.