Electric Designs

Aug. 11, 2022
Manufacturers are working to create accessories as the demand for electric vehicles grows.

As electric patrol vehicles such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E and and Tesla models continue to gain popularity among law enforcement agencies, manufacturers are beginning to create accessories designed specifically for the vehicles, while also making sure their universal products are transferable.

OFFICER Magazine recently spoke with Brett Ware, National Sales Manager at Setina Manufacturing, and Kari Haser, Product Marketer with Gamber-Johnson, about the current offerings for electric patrol vehicles and their companies’ plans to incorporate more accessories in their future product lines.

Going electric

In January 2018, the Fremont Police Department in California purchased a used 2014 Tesla Model S 85 from the all-electric automaker based in the same city. When the department began making the modifications necessary for the vehicle to become a patrol vehicle, it contacted Setina.Once ready, the vehicle hit the streets in March 2019. The department deployed its second fully electric-powered patrol vehicle in 2021, a Tesla Model Y crossover SUV.

This article appeared in the July issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to view the digital edition. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

“We first began with the Tesla Model S, and while we did produce some products for it, it was cost-prohibitive to most agencies,” says Ware, noting that the patrol vehicle trend has been going toward SUVs and that when Freemont contacted them about the Model Y, Setina designed a product line around that vehicle.

Setina also began offering products for the Chevrolet Bolt about a year ago. “We have a good working relationship with GM,” says Ware. Currently partitions are only offered for the Bolt. The same is currently true for the Mach-E, but the company is expecting to have a full patrol vehicle package ready within the next 6-8 weeks. “We’re looking to have it bumper-to-bumper ready for patrol with that additional equipment that is in development right now.”

When the Madison Police Department in Wisconsin was testing out the Tesla Model 3 to determine if they would work for their fleet, Gamber-Johnson, which is located about two hours north in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, sent representatives to take a look at the vehicle. That’s where the company designed a vehicle base mounting solution that it now offers for the Model 3. The company also has a universal adjustable seat base that is compatible with the Mach-E.

““Gamber-Johnson’s pedestal solution offers the most space-efficient rugged mounting solution for vehicle cabins, so it was a great first step for the EV market,” says Haser. “With pedestal systems available for both the Tesla and the Mustang Mach-E, Gamber-Johnson is diving into more solutions to support the EV trend. With many components available to cross over from the F-150 to the Ford Lightning, we have a great start with bumper-to-bumper total vehicle solutions for these vehicles as they become more common among departments. We have a dedicated team to support innovative ways to support this thriving market.”

An increasing demand

The market for accessories for all-electric patrol vehicles, and for the vehicles themselves, is still in the developmental stages, but the expectation is that it will only continue to grow over the next five years.

“I think that the changeover to electric vehicles is inevitable and I think that it’s going to be here faster than we know it,” says Ware. “But I think until you get one of these big three (automakers), or potentially all of them, to build a badged police packaged vehicle, I think that’s kind of what everybody is really waiting for. Obviously, there are benefits on acceleration and fuel savings and things like that. I think the infrastructure and the police package—badging with that pursuit rating–is going to be the key to success.”

Haser echoed Ware’s sentiments. “We have had some customers requesting support for EVs and work to provide a solution. Limited access to measurements and demo vehicles makes the road more challenging than a traditional vehicle release but an obstacle Gamber-Johnson is working through to support these requests. Utilizing our universal solutions has been a great segway, but we are actively working toward vehicle-specific solutions across the board.”

Universal options

Right now, universal solutions for electric patrol vehicles may be the best bet for agencies looking to outfit their new units. “We try to make all of our products universal and transferable,” says Ware, noting that Setina’s partitions are for the most part both transferable and universal. “That being said, on some of these vehicles, there are some unique characteristics, so we can’t always transfer these products.”

Haser says Gamber-Johnson typically prefers to create vehicle-specific solutions, especially with products that include pedestals because it’s important that the solution is completely stable. “That being said, the universal solutions give a rugged, reliable, and responsive mounting solution available now until we can gain the criteria to engineer a more specific solution,” she says. “We have new, innovative products currently in development for industry leaders like the Ford Interceptor Utility and Chevy Tahoe, which can be applied to EVs once the demand supports these vehicles.”

Potential challenges

One drawback of electric vehicles, when it comes to outfitting them with accessories, is space. Most of all-electric patrol vehicles lack the space of their gas-powered counterparts, which already have a scaled-back amount of space when compared to the patrol vehicles of the past.

“There has been this trend toward smaller vehicles, really going back to the Crown Vic,” says Ware. “The (Ford Crown Victoria) was a nice, big vehicle. The recipe for a police car then was big car, big engine, big brakes. We’ve seen the space get smaller while they are also being asked to carry more equipment. I think that’s a challenge we just quite haven’t overcome. That Tesla Model Y is a great vehicle, but it’s not as big as the Interceptor, which they were already struggling to find space for all of their gear. Along with the Mach-E and the Chevy Bolt, I think space is their big thing and that is also one of our challenges when we’re designing equipment is how to find a home for everything, how to make the most of the relatively limited space that we have.”

Haser stresses another concern with vehicle accessories is adding additional weight, to the electric vehicles, ultimately decreasing the range of operation. “This makes developing solutions a more difficult task for mount providers like ourselves. We need to maintain rugged construction while minimizing the weight. With our sister company PMT utilizing all aluminum components, we have a leg up in this development process to develop rugged and reliable products that are also lightweight and responsive.”

She states: “Even with these challenges ahead, Gamber-Johnson is excited about new opportunities to support electric vehicles and looking forward to the innovative solutions that can be developed to better support all police vehicles through this process.”  

This article appeared in the July issue of OFFICER Magazine.

About the Author

Paul Peluso | Editor

Paul Peluso is the Managing Editor of OFFICER Magazine and has been with the Officer Media Group since 2006. He began as an Associate Editor, writing and editing content for Officer.com. Previously, Paul worked as a reporter for several newspapers in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD.

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