BMW Beats Tesla in Bid to Supply Los Angeles Police With Electric Cars

By KIRSTEN KOROSEC

BMW has won a bid to supply the Los Angeles Police Department with electric vehicles after months of field testing that pitted the German automaker against competitors like Tesla.

The LAPD will buy 100 BMW i3 vehicles, an all-electric car that has 80 to 100 miles of range. It is part of police force's plan to add 500 electric vehicles over the next five years in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

The car was selected due to a combination of EPA rated efficiency, reliability, and its connected car platform, which can support apps that can help with managing a large fleet of cars. The company's network of service centers also played into the decision, according to the automaker.

While the BMW i3 is a zippy electric vehicle that has a tight turning radius and a size that makes it easier to drive in the city. It's also a lot cheaper than one of its key competitors for the contract, Tesla's Model S.

The i3's base price is $42,400 before any federal or state incentives are applied. Meanwhile, the Model S 70D, the cheapest available configuration, starts at $76,500, before incentives. How much the LAPD will pay BMW for its electric cars is unclear.

The LAPD's deal with BMW to supply cars beginning this spring is not exclusive, a company spokesman confirmed. This means Tesla (TSLA, +1.76%) and other automakers could eventually end up in the department 's fleet through future contracts.

The BMW i3 cars are not intended to be used in high-speed chases or to respond to emergencies. The BMW i3s will be part of the department's non-emergency fleet vehicles for things like community outreach. BMW's software will be integrated with the LAPD's fleet management system to help monitor and maintain the cars. BMW says it's also designing a web tool that will allow the department to track cars in near real-time.

Greenlots, California company that manages networks of electric vehicle chargers, will provide the chargers as well as software to help the LAPD better manage its energy use. For instance, when a LAPD building is nearing peak energy use, the software can reduce the amount of energy going to the car chargers to help reduce costs.

This would be the largest electric vehicle fleet and charging installation to ever for a police department, according to Greenlots.

The LAPD's electric car deal is supposed to help Los Angeles meet its environmental goals as outlined in its sustainability plan. It calls for 80% of city's fleet of light-duty vehicles to be electric by 2025.

Although not exclusive, the contract is good news for the BMW i3, which has trailed its rivals in electric car sales. BMW delivered 24,057 BMW i3s in 2015 and 5,456 BMW i8s, another of its electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, Tesla delivered 50,580 Model S and Model X vehicles. This year, sales of the i3 have lagged behind Tesla's two vehicles as well as the Nissan Leaf and several plug-in electric hybrids, which are powered by gas and an electric battery.

Last month, BMW announced that the 2017 model year BMW i3 would have an improved battery pack with 50% more capacity than the previous model. The range on the 2017 model year vehicle is expected to be 114 miles under the EPA rating. Deliveries vehicle in the U.S. market are scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2016.