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Sheriff’s Department saves money and reduces its carbon footprint

By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department plans to introduce an electric patrol car into its fleet, signaling a move toward the reduction of the county’s contribution to fossil fuels and significant savings in gasoline costs.

The county budget, adopted on November 10, sets aside $75,000 to implement the new pilot program, adding an electric traffic enforcement vehicle to its law enforcement fleet. While electric cars are not specifically designed for police work, the purchased vehicle would be outfitted with equipment to suit the needs of the sheriff’s department. The car is anticipated to cost around $50,000 upon initial purchase, with $15,000 set aside for flexibility to add additional features necessary to meet departmental requirements. 

While electric vehicles are more expensive upfront compared to regular patrol vehicles, the savings in gas and maintenance is ‘incredible’, says Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low, who put forward the proposal.

During the early stages of the budgetary process, Low began looking into the annual amount of fuel the sheriff’s office fleet of vehicles used. The analysis found that law enforcement was responsible for 60% of the gas used by county departments, equating to approximately 350,000 gallons a year.

“Over ten years that’s 3.5 million gallons of gas just for the sheriff’s department,” commented Low.

Other law enforcement departments throughout the country have already begun adding electric vehicles to their fleets. After purchasing and using a Tesla Model 3, Indiana’s Bargersville Police Department documented a first-year annual savings of $6,750, noted Low.

With savings in fuel, Low anticipates that the vehicle will pay for itself within two to three years. With a driving range of about 300 miles per charge, with some vehicle models lasting upwards of 500,000 miles before needing to be replaced, Low says the sheriff’s department may get more use out of an electric car compared to a gasoline vehicle.

It wasn’t just the cost savings that led the council to the car, as there are also environmental benefits. Electric vehicles have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to their gas counterparts, said Low, who has been driving his own electric personal vehicle for over two years.

“All of us care about our environment… This is just another step in being good environmental stewards,” said Low. “There’s a huge expense around fossil fuels and if this program takes off, there could be significant savings with a lot less usage of fossil fuels.”

Low says that the county has considered implementing hybrid vehicles in the past, but the decision has always boiled down to vehicle capacity for meeting conventional police car performance and safety.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen some significant changes in the electric vehicle industry,” explained Low. “They now have electric vehicles that are comparable in safety and performance of a regular patrol vehicle.”

Once the car is purchased and operational in 2021, the sheriff’s office will report to the county council documenting the vehicle’s performance for six months. The council will then have the opportunity to examine continued investment in the pilot program.

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