Ever since Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launched a $10 million pilot program to supply LAPD with hundreds of electric BMWs, he has boasted about building the most extensive city-owned fleet of pure battery vehicles in America. However, some of those green energy cars stay parked in a garage collecting dust, rarely used for official business — taxpayer money that appears to have been spent to meet idealistic goals laid out in Garcetti's long-term environmental vision.
In a recent exposé by a local television station, a reporter scoured through LAPD mileage records, revealing "some electric cars are sitting unused with only a few hundred miles on them," and with hidden cameras, found police officials allegedly misusing others for personal errands, including a manicure.
The investigative report did not mention Garcetti's environmental policy blueprint, called the “Sustainable City pLAn,” which prioritized several "green" objectives, including “the nation’s most aggressive EV (electric vehicle) procurement goal,” as described by the mayor. The idea was introduced in April 2015 — five months before the LAPD committed to lease the first batch of electric vehicles.
The Mayor's Office released a progress report in 2017 celebrating the outcomes produced by Garcetti's ambitious climate agenda, including the LAPD’s acquisition of energy-efficient BMWs, stating:
More than 80 percent of all City fleet procurements in the current budget year are electric vehicles - far exceeding the 2017 target of 50 percent, and giving L.A. the nation's largest pure battery electric vehicle municipal fleet, as well as the largest vehicle police fleet.
The BMW i3 all-electric plug-in vehicles leased by the LAPD are not used as patrol cars or in high-speed pursuits. They are supposed to benefit detectives, investigators, and community outreach personnel.
As CBS-2 Los Angeles first reported:
Sources say some personnel are reluctant to use the electric cars because they can only go 80-100 miles on a charge.
And the mileage logs we obtained seem to back that up.
From April 2016 when the project started through August 2017, we found most of the electric cars have only been used for a few thousand miles.
Matt Petersen, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is the chief architect of the mayor's environmental plan. Garcetti appointed him as the city’s first-ever chief sustainability officer. The mayor wrote that his “comprehensive and actionable directive” would "permeate everything we do as a city," and:
Reviews of our department General Managers will incorporate whether they are meeting the goals of the pLAn. The outcomes in the pLAn that require additional funding will receive priority in my annual budget process. Departments will report regularly on their progress, and any challenges they face in implementing the initiatives that the pLAn prioritizes.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is among the city officials whose job performance directly connects to advancing Garcetti's green agenda. Coincidentally, he announced his upcoming early retirement three days after CBS-2 News broadcast its investigation.
Meanwhile, Garcetti — who co-founded a group known as Climate Mayors — has been rallying his counterparts throughout the country to follow his example and obtain green energy cars for their cities. Garcetti and Petersen teamed up with leaders representing New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and several other large municipalities "to show automakers and manufacturers that our cities want over 110,000 cars and trucks in our fleets to be electric." That coalition intends to "do joint pilots to help ensure new EVs can be manufactured that meet the needs of cities," and "do joint procurement to help create economies of scale and lower costs."
Garcetti is expected to release an updated version of the Sustainable City pLAn, with revised goals, by early 2019. The mayor is considered a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Mitch Englander — the only Republican on the 15-member L.A. City Council — said the money spent to supply the police department with BMW green energy cars has “been wasted to date.”
The LAPD has 200 electric vehicles in its current fleet, with an additional 100 scheduled to arrive later this year.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.