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Australian police forces not ready for electric cars due to range, charging fears


Around the world, electric cars are slowly becoming more mainstream – but they likely won’t be wearing red and blue lights in Australian police service in the near future, the nation’s constabularies say.

Australian police forces have a very limited or non-existent presence of electric cars within their fleets, recent data has shown,  with many units pointing to difficulties associated with range and a lack of charging infrastructure. 

In an investigation conducted by Chasing Cars, data was collected from the state, territory and federal police forces in Australia to see if electric vehicles were breaking into the emergency service ranks as the battery-driven technology slowly closes the gap with petrol and diesel cars.

Tesla Model X 2021 white falcon wing doors open
The only known actively serving EV police car in Australia is a Tesla Model X in Victoria

The results were diverse, with only Victoria Police confirming that an EV is on the force as an active duty police vehicle. That car, a fully-electric Tesla Model X SUV, was acquired as part of a feasibility study that kicked off in 2019.

“This feasibility study remains ongoing and gives Victoria Police an insight into what functionality police vehicles require from electric vehicles,” a spokesperson for the department told Chasing Cars.

While the exact requirements of police cars are not normally disclosed to the public, Sergeant Raymond Murray from the Queensland Police Service said while they were always looking to introduce new technology, charging and range issues associated with EVs made it difficult at the current time.

“The nature of police work is you never know when an emergency is going to happen and you need to be ready to go,” he told Chasing Cars.

“Queensland is just huge and we need to be able to stop and get fuel wherever we need to.” 

Sergeant Murray also pointed out that QPS had a significant amount of partial electrification on the force with 241 Toyota Camry and Toyota RAV4 hybrid models tasked with administration duties. 

Electric police cars in Australia: what the states say

StateAny police EVs?Type of duties
New South Wales1x Hyundai Kona ElectricCommunity engagement
Victoria1x Tesla Model XActive duty
QueenslandToyota Hybrids only (>200)Admin duties
South Australia2x Hyundai Kona Electric, 3x Hyundai Ioniq ElectricAdmin duties
Western Australia3x Hyundai Ioniq ElectricAdmin duties
Tasmania3x Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, 57 Toyota HybridsAdmin duties
Federal Police (inc. ACT and NT)In testingIn testing

Gary Clayton, the fleet management supervisor at Tasmania Police, said they, too, had been cautious to adopt fully-electric vehicles for the same reason. 

“We haven’t looked at pure electric vehicles at this stage mainly due to the lack of charging stations and size of the current vehicle selection,” Mr Clayton said. 

Toyota Camry 2021-3
While fully-electric vehicles are rarely used, hybrids such as the Toyota Camry are often recruited for admin duties

The fleet manager said hybrid vehicles remained the preferred choice due to not having to physically plug them in, which would be a problem in remote areas.

“No doubt more charging stations will be installed in future and admin vehicles will be the first to go pure electric only,” My Clayton said.

Tasmania Police does have three Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrids on fleet, as well as 57 conventional hybrids in the form of Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Camry models that are shared with the SES.

Over in South Australia, police said they had five EVs on their fleet in the form of two Hyundai Kona Electric and three Hyundai Ioniq models, that were used alongside a wide range of Toyota Camry and Toyota RAV4 hybrids for administration services.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV
South Australian Police keep a number of Kona Electric and Hyundai Ioniq EVs on their fleet

However, unlike the Victoria Police Tesla, which is used alongside BMW 530d highway patrol cars within that force, the South Australian electric police vehicles are not considered part of the active-duty fleet.

In Western Australia, there are three Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite pure-EVs on fleet, along with 13 Toyota Camry hybrids, comprising 0.01% of the state’s police force.

The Australian Federal Police is currently testing a handful of hybrid and EV cars in their nation fleet and more locally in the ACT and Northern Territory.

While NSW Police do not have any hybrid of electric vehicles as part of their general administration or core police fleet, it has recently introduced a Hyundai Kona Electric that will operate out of its Penrith station for the next 12 months.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 police front
NSW Police recently recruited a Hyundai Kona Electric as a community engagement vehicle

The Kona Electric will serve as a community engagement vehicle by the Crime Prevention Unit and primarily help to draw attention as a promotional vehicle, it has previously done with a Honda Civic Type R and even a McLaren 650S.

In a statement, a spokesperson from NSW Police Force said it would “continue to monitor the new vehicle landscape assessing opportunities to leverage the technological and environmental benefits of electric and hybrid vehicles without compromising operational effectiveness of the fleet.”