Hawaii Department Of Transportation Has Fleet Of Teslas That Is Helping The State Save Money

KHON2 has a few concerns about Hawaii’s decision to outfit its State Department of Transportation (DOT) with a fleet of Teslas. The news station noted that it was receiving a lot of questions about why there were so many Teslas being used by the State DOT. Apparently, state fleets should look worn around the edges and not like luxury vehicles. Their outlet, Always Investigation, asked State DOT Deputy Director at the Highways Division Ed Sniffen a few questions.

“I really appreciate the concern that you have to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible,” said Sniffen. “We’re not looking at purchasing luxury vehicles. We’re not looking at trying to pamper our employees. I would love everybody to understand that we’re looking at the best deals for the state. We could have considered optics and opted for the Chevy Bolt, but we would have gotten a less reliable vehicle at a higher cost.”

Sniffen shared the numbers, explaining that the fleet of Teslas came out at $1.49 per mile when you consider telematics and charging stations. Nissan LEAFs come out to $1.60 per mile and Chevy Bolts $1.70 per mile.

Panos Prevedouros, a UH Manoa engineering school transportation professor, thinks that those numbers aren’t correct. “When they tell you that the per-mile cost of a Tesla is lower than a Nissan Leaf, that really does not compute,” Prevedouros said. “So there may be other fixed charges there that we don’t know about. Somebody is making some good bucks out of this between the contractor and Tesla and all.”

Sustainability Partners, a contractor that handles acquiring the Tesla vehicles and charging station components, noted that this is part of a new model for Hawaii’s fleets called “mobility as a service.” This model enables state and county agencies to electrify their fleets for a pay-per-mile usage fee.

Sniffen explained that the Hawaii DOT procured a Chevy Bolt that cost the department around $50,000 for the vehicle. “The charging station cost us another $15,000 to $20,000 to install the infrastructure for the charging station, then install our racks and everything like that. So, overall total about $70,000 when we finished up. And still, maintenance is on us, still insurance is on us.”

Image courtesy of Hawaii DOT.

Sniffen noted that the cost would have been $2 million with the latest fleet replacements, but the new approach is much better. “Because the Teslas were the best deal, we got 43 Teslas. But when you go out for the next bulk purchase of vehicles, it’s whatever vehicles are available and whatever technologies that gives us the best deal.”

He also explained that the DOT will save hundreds of dollars on fuel even after the cost of power and that the department would be driving greener. Prevedouros, however, noted that the grid isn’t as green as Sniffen thinks it is and pointed out that around 80% of Hawaii’s electricity is dirty. “The argument that we’re saving CO2 really shouldn’t be even on the slide. It’s too early to try to claim that.” (Editor’s note: This is an odd claim. It is well documented — thoroughly proven — that driving electric vehicles is much greener than driving fossil fueled vehicles. Yes, 100% clean, renewable energy is better than 20%, but an electric car is already much greener than a gas-powered car, and gets greener year after year.)

Another perk of the Hawaii DOT having a fleet of Teslas is the ability to track and verify that they are being used for work assignments. A few employees will be allowed to take them home, but they won’t be allowed to use them after hours besides for their work commute.

Examples Of How Switching To Tesla From Fossil-Fuel Vehicles Saved Police Departments Money

Tesla’s reputation as a luxury brand often has the public pretty confused. The idea of taxpayer funding buying a Tesla seems insane to those who don’t follow the company too closely.

However, Teslas have low cost of ownership and can actually save money, and many local and even state governments are realizing the benefits of having Tesla vehicles in their fleets. Here’s a quick list of a few examples of such:

Fremont Police Department

The Fremont Police found that the total cost of ownership for their Tesla Model S 85 not only decreased over time but that the vehicle holds its value twice as well as the average fossil-fuel vehicle. Another study found that the average five-year depreciation of a Tesla Model S 85 is 61.7%, and possibly 80% after seven years. When you consider the additional age and the intense driving that police vehicles do, this decreases the total cost of ownership by a range of $12,000–13,000. You can read more here.

Westport Police Department

In 2019, the city of Westport, Connecticut, added a new Tesla Model 3 to its police vehicle fleet — angering critics who, again, chastised the department for buying a luxury vehicle. Westport released data on the cost of ownership and an analysis of the data showed that the Town of Westport was able to pay off that extra investment within the first year.

Even further, the Tesla police vehicle will have saved Westport $63,000 after four years on an amortized basis — enough to buy another one. You can read more about that here.

Bargersville Police Department

Bargersville, Indiana, added a Tesla Model 3 to its police fleet well over a year ago and a cost comparison between the Tesla Model 3 and a Dodge Charger showed a savings of almost $7,000 in one year. The cost of operation for the Dodge Charger for a year was $7,580 while the cost of the Model 3 was $825. For fuel and maintenance costs, the Model 3 saved the department $6,755. You can read more here.

After a year of owning the Tesla Model 3, Todd Bertram, the Bargersville Police Chief, shared that he loved the vehicle. You can read more here.

Although these are just three case studies, more police forces have started utilizing various Tesla vehicles for their fleets, and in time, they will also share the data on their savings. Teslas may have higher upfront costs, and depending on a department’s use, may require additional costs for modifications. However, in the long run, the savings and benefits will typically prove those costs as wise investments.


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