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Spokane police vehicle funding won’t expand EV fleet

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(The Center Square) – Last week the Spokane City Council voted to approve $3.128 million in federal grant funds for 46 new police department vehicles in an effort to modernize an aging fleet.

However, the funding for orders made in 2022 will not go toward adding more to the department’s electric vehicles fleet, which one city councilmember said has proven unreliable and limited in use.

“Regardless of department, I don’t believe it’s future-proofed,” Councilmember Michael Cathcart told The Center Square. “I think technology is going to change.”

In 2021, the SPD obtained its first electric vehicle as part of a pilot program. A year later, the council authorized $2.4 million for police vehicles that included eight electric vehicles. However, the SPD shortly reported numerous logistical problems due to their limited battery charge and long charging time.

SPD Public Safety Communication Manager Julie Humphreys told The Center Square the department’s nine EVs are currently used for administrative purposes only due to variety of factors. One is that the vehicle batteries lack the capacity to last for a full shift.

“They aren’t practical,” she said. “We can’t have an officer out of commission for an hour waiting to charge.”

Another problem is that Teslas and other EVs weren’t designed for law enforcement use, which requires additional equipment such as a computer and security barrier between the front and back seats. Humphreys said the cost to equip the EVs would be twice as much for a gas-powered vehicle.

“It was petty clear immediately they were not usable for patrol,” Cathcart said.

Another logistical issue has been keeping the vehicles in storage during extreme weather conditions during winter.

“There’s just a lot of challenges that have not been worked through,” Cathcart said.

At a time when SPD is trying to replace its aging gas-powered vehicles, Humphreys said there are no plans by the department to further expand their EV fleet.

“If they ever come up with something … that would fit the needs of a police department we would certainly give it a try,” she said.