The officer ran out of juice during the chase.
Range anxiety has been the bane of electric cars for years, particularly when you need to get somewhere important. In this case, it’s even worse, as police officer Jesse Hartman experienced chasing down a suspect, and ultimately had to break contact because his Tesla Model S was running low on battery charge.
And before you ask, yes — this is the same Tesla Model S we learned about earlier this year. The Fremont Police Department, whose jurisdiction includes Tesla’s main factory, bought a Model S for $61,000 in 2018. The department then spent a year modifying it for police use before rolling it out in March 2019. “I am down to six miles of battery on the Tesla so I may lose it here in a sec,” Officer Hartman said.
The East Bay Times reports the suspect began driving down the shoulder on Interstate 680 as traffic began to build up. At that point, police called off the pursuit for public safety, but not before Hartman had to scramble for the nearest charging station. “I’ve got to try and find a charging station for the Tesla so I can make it back to the city,” he told dispatchers.
Now, in this case it wasn’t the Tesla’s fault. Apparently, the last officer to drive the car didn’t recharge it before Hartman’s swing shift. Under normal circumstances, the department says it wouldn’t have been an issue. Captain Sean Washington said that the Tesla police pilot program was going well back in July 2019. Beyond that he said, “We are easily able to make it through an 11-hour shift with battery power to spare.”
Audio from the chase is available below, as Officer Hartman did inform dispatchers of his range throughout the pursuit:
The pursuit reached 120 miles per hour
California Highway Patrol later found the car the suspect was driving. The drive crashed it into bushes not far from where Fremont Police called the chase off, but was not at the scene when officers arrived. During the pursuit, the East Bay Times reports speeds reached upwards of 120 miles per hour.
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like anyone was hurt during the chase. But it does raise an interesting question about electric cars as police interceptors. Of course, officers could run out of fuel on a pursuit too, so the problem isn’t exclusive to electric cars. With how much energy these cars can use at high speeds, however, are they viable as high-speed cruisers?
Again, there is the fact that the car wasn’t charged before the officer’s shift to consider. If the Model S were fully charged from the start, it’s likely the Tesla would have lasted through the chase. At any rate, this chase does provide useful information for departments eyeing electric cars for their fleets.