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Los Angeles police force buys 100 BMW i3 electric cars, snubbing Tesla

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Nick Ut/AP

(Read caption) Electric cars are parked at charging stations during a roll out by The Los Angeles Police Department of 100 electric cars that it added to its fleet in 2016.

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Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department took delivery of a BMW i3 electric car for testing.

The officers who drove the little electric hatchback liked it, apparently.

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After a few months of testing alongside a considerably more glamorous Tesla Model S, the LAPD has committed to an order for 100 of BMW's electric cars.

The i3 police cars will wear the same black-and-white livery as other LAPD police cars, but will be used for non-emergency functions.

These include transporting officers and community-outreach initiatives, according to a BMW press release detailing the fleet deal.

BMW will also develop software that interfaces with the LAPD's fleet-management system, allowing officials to monitor vehicle data and track the electric-car fleet in near real time.

Greenlots will supply 100 240-volt Level 2 charging stations to the LAPD, along with four DC fast-charging stations, to support the electric cars.

While its looks may not strike fear into the hearts of criminals—and its performance may be somewhat lacking against that of the Model S—the i3 has several attributes that should suit it to police work.

Its compact size and extremely tight turning radius make maneuvering on crowded city streets easier.

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The BMW is also significantly cheaper to buy or lease than the Tesla, which should make those in charge of LA's city budget happier.

As with all electric cars, the i3 also operates quietly, emits nothing, and brings very low per-mile operating costs to police work.

While some U.S. cities use electric cars for municipal functions, the LAPD order likely represents the largest for electric police cars so far in the U.S.

The purchase is a part of a larger order for 160 battery-electric cars and 128 plug-in hybrids for multiple city agencies that the Los Angeles government announced last year.

The remaining 60 battery-electric cars will go to the city's fire, water & power, and general services departments. Water & power and General Services will split the plug-in hybrids between them.

Los Angeles also wants electric cars to make up fully 80 percent of municipal-fleet vehicle purchases by 2025.

"They will absolutely be the patrol cars of the future," noted Los Angeles Police chief Charlie Beck.