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What’s one car to Tesla, one of the world’s most recognizable companies?
Jason Campbell

Earlier this week the Lathrop City Council approved spending up to $25,000 to purchase a Tesla Model 3 that Lathrop Police Services will use for patrol.

If the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District signs off on a $20,000 grant, the city will get the state-of-the-art police cruiser for less than the cost of a gas-powered vehicle, and it could end up running more than twice as long as any Dodge or Chevy in Tesla’s estimates for range ring true.

And while I think that it’s awesome that Lathrop is thinking outside of the box on this, I can’t help but wonder – what is a single Model 3 to Tesla?

While a company can’t exactly give their products away for free to everybody that wants one, I can’t help but think that Lathrop isn’t exactly your average consumer when it comes to their products. Parts for the Model S and the Model X, which are assembled in Fremont, are actually machined at Lathrop’s Tesla facility, and the city has rolled out the red carpet in more ways than one since Elon Musk’s flagship came to town five years ago.

Surely for a city that made their staffers available around the clock early on in the process qualifies for somewhat of a break. 

In looking into this further, I was surprised to see that the City of Fremont also didn’t get a break when they decided to deploy a used Model S for some of its patrol operations – and considering that they make the cars in Fremont, it’s unlikely that Lathrop would rank high enough to get a model for free. 

But, while my idea is unlikely to happen anytime soon, I am deeply curious whether Lathrop’s decision to go with a fully electric car for patrol is going to set a trend among local law enforcement agencies looking to save money in fuel and ongoing maintenance costs. 

A few years ago, the thought of a police department going with anything other than a gas vehicle would have been shot down almost immediately. The reliability factor just wasn’t there to put a car like that into emergency use, and even if that did exist, there was no way an electric car could rival a gas-powered one in the performance category.

That is, until Tesla changed all of that.

Currently a stock, straight off of the line Model 3 is just as fast from a stop as a stock Corvette, if not faster, and would under ideal circumstances beat it in a quarter-mile race. Granted, a Tesla doesn’t have the same handling capability as a track-ready car like a Corvette, but the idea that a car powered by a battery would be faster than a quintessential American muscle car would have seemed crazy just a few years ago.

It’s easy to understand from a physics standpoint – the battery produces power straight to the wheels without losing any energy in the process – but when you’re talking about something like law enforcement, which relies heavily on vehicles to get from one place to another and to even chase down cars that don’t want to stop, new technology isn’t necessarily easily embraced. 

So, considering that Lathrop is taking a chance on a new car, it’s kind of exciting to think that this could represent a change in the way that law enforcement approaches what has always been a race for horsepower and reliability.

Whether that materializes or not, it’s refreshing to see a new approach being taken, and I think that credit for that needs to go to Lathrop’s higher-ups and the administration at the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office who signed off on the idea – just the latest in a string of good decisions lately that are reflective of the direction that both agencies are headed. 

While Manteca has been invested lately in replacing the entire aging fleet of police cruisers with the Chevy Tahoe models – the truck chassis they are built on is hyper-resilient and able to withstand the rigors of the job – so it’s unlikely that they would stray from that, but perhaps one of the community service vehicles could be an alternative fuel vehicle.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Lathrop’s investment is the first domino in a series. 

It would have just been nice to see the company that the city has so diligently promoted return the favor without making them pay almost $25,000 – hopefully – for their police car of the future. 

The election is already heating up

We’re still 18 months away from the next election, and already the local races are starting to come into focus.

On Thursday Supervisor Bob Elliott, who represents a portion of Manteca, announced that after the end of his second term he’ll be setting his sights on the California State Senate as a Republican. 

Rumors have been swirling about Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman potentially making a run for the seat, and that another member of the Board of Supervisors might be making a play for her seat when it becomes available. 

So, in short, the big game of musical chairs is already heating up and we haven’t even hit the same calendar year as the election that will shake things up for years to come.

I don’t know any of the candidates that have either announced or are being discussed as contenders enough to form an opinion on any of them, but I can’t help but notice that things are starting earlier each and every time an election comes around. 

If 2016 was any indication, we’re liable to see a record turnout next year, and that means that this is only the beginning of what will be a long and likely brutal campaign season as polarization becomes more commonplace even at the local levels.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, and who will stake their claim for the potential seats on the Board of Supervisors if the rumors hold true. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.