What BMW and the LAPD said
BMW said on Wednesday it had won a bid to supply the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) with 100 fully electric BMW i3 sedans.
The i3, a small sedan made largely of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in an innovative manufacturing facility, won't be seeing emergency duty with the department. It'll be part of the LAPD's transportation fleet, used for community outreach and business purposes -- not as a patrol or pursuit vehicle.
BMW said the LAPD chose the i3 in part because of its connectivity. The i3's "ConnectedDrive" technology suite can be used to support fleet management applications, BMW said. The company will provide the LAPD with a web-based tool that will allow the department to track the cars in real time. The LAPD will lease the i3s for $387 per month (per car) for 36 months.
According to BMW, the LAPD began field-testing electric vehicles from several different manufacturers in September of 2015. The Los Angeles Times reported that Tesla's high-performance P90D was among the vehicles considered; it's not clear why the Tesla wasn't chosen, but its high cost was almost certainly a factor.
What it means for BMW and for electric cars
It's a high-profile win for BMW, which has recently seemed to be dithering over its commitment to battery-electric vehicles. The i3 has been hailed by auto-industry watchers as a significant advance, but sales have not lived up to the company's expectations.
Aside from Tesla's offerings, electric cars have been a tough sell to retail buyers in the last few years. But more and more government agencies have expressed interest in the technology. That's especially true in pollution-conscious California, which has led the nation in air-quality regulations for years -- and it may be a route via which makers of electric vehicles can increase sales (and visibility) of their products.
According to The Los Angeles Times report, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said his department is working with several automakers in an effort to create an electric vehicle more directly suited to use as a police cruiser. Beck expects electric vehicles "will absolutely be the patrol cars of the future" -- and that may lead to the wider adoption of electric-vehicle technology.