Bargersville police to add two Teslas, officers, start work on new station

Bargersville is growing and so is its police department, with plans to add two new officers and two more luxury electric cars to its fleet next year.

It’s been 16 months since the Bargersville Police Department bought its first Tesla, and it is already seeing savings, said Todd Bertram, the town’s police chief.

Now, the department plans to add two more of the powerful electric cars to the town’s police fleet, which already includes three Teslas.

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The cost to buy the cars and equip them with police technology will be about $100,000, with payments being made over the next four years, Bertram said. The Bargersville Town Council last week approved Bertram’s request to use $23,000 from this year’s budget to cover part of the cost of outfitting the vehicles with police equipment such as lights and sirens.

Last year, Bargersville police became the first in Indiana to add Teslas to its fleet. Though Teslas are more expensive upfront compared to traditional gas-powered police cars, the town will save money on fuel and maintenance. Right now, a 2021 Tesla Model 3 starts at $37,990, while a new Dodge Charger starts at $29,995.

Though the savings were less than expected this year due to gas prices falling amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bertram is happy with the savings. He is so happy, in fact, he is working on a cost comparison to determine if the town should expand its Tesla fleet even further next year, when the department plans to purchase three SUVs. If his analysis suggests more Teslas would be a better value, he would pursue purchasing those instead, he said.

Bertram this year tracked the costs to operate an in-service Tesla Model 3 and an in-service Dodge Charger and found it cost about $6,700 less to operate the Tesla.

In a year, the department spent about $7,580 on gas, oil and maintenance for the Charger. During the same period, the department spent $825 on electricity to charge the Tesla, and no maintenance was needed.

After 16 months in service, just one of the Teslas has needed maintenance — collision repair after an officer hit a deer.

Even with a two-year break-even point, it is worth the investment, Bertram said.

“My experience with Tesla is that it is an amazing car. There is less downtime because there is virtually no maintenance,” he said.

Residents, visitors and even folks who get pulled over ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the cars. Some assume the town wasted money buying an expensive toy, Bertram said, so he likes to educate them about the cost and the savings the town will see.

Likewise, police chiefs around the country are reaching out to hear about the department’s experience with the luxury electric cars, and he’s been interviewed by several car publications about the its performance, he said.

His recent request for additional Teslas comes at a time when Bertram expects to encounter problems with some of the town’s older police vehicles. The department will bring on two new officers next year who will be assigned the town’s reserve cars, older model Chargers with known maintenance problems, Bertram said.

“This is really just me trying to get ahead of a problem that is coming and I think you know is coming, too,” Bertram said at the council meeting. “We hired two people and we are putting them in reserve cars and I know that is going to be a problem.”

The council agreed the cars were needed and discussion at the meeting centered around where in the department’s budget the money would come from.

The cars will be ordered but won’t go into service until after the new year; delivery is up to seven weeks out, Bertram said. In the meantime, the department will likely need to spend about $4,000 to repair the reserve cars, he said.

Once the new officers come on board, the department will have 14 full-time officers and six reserve officers. With the two additional officers, the department will still be down two, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recommended standard of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents.

The town is also working on plans to build a new police station at Morgantown Road and Whiteland Road to accommodate the growth that is expected in that area of town. Designs are complete and work has now turned to shoring up finance options before the final project is presented to the council for consideration, Bertram said.