A Fremont police officer was on patrol when he came across a parked car that city cameras identified as having been involved in a crime in Santa Clara. Officer Jesse Hartman verified the license plate and tried to stop the driver, but the driver fled.
The chase was on — or so Hartman thought.
The officer happened to be driving the Police Department’s only Tesla, and the fully electric car was just about out of battery power.
“I am down to six miles of battery on the Tesla so I may lose it here in a sec,” Hartman said over the radio, according to the East Bay Times. “If someone else is able, can they maneuver into the No. 1 spot?”
But soon after he called for help, the chase was called off.
According to the Fremont Police Department, officers stopped pursuing the car because it was being driven in a way that was unsafe, not because the Tesla patrol car had about run out of battery.
The East Bay Times reported that the suspect began driving on the shoulder of the highway to get around mounting traffic.
“I’ve got to try to find a charging station for the Tesla so I can make it back to the city,” Hartman said over the radio when he stopped chasing the suspect.
Geneva Bosques, a spokeswoman for the Fremont Police Department, said the patrol vehicle was driven to a charging station in San Jose and then returned to Fremont. California Highway Patrol officers later found the suspect’s car abandoned in San Jose.
Bosques said the incident wasn’t too concerning. She said the car had performed well in one other pursuit, meaning it had no problem catching up and staying close to the suspect’s car at a high speed.
She added that the Tesla’s battery had lasted almost two shifts, despite the fact it wasn’t charged at the beginning of Officer Hartman’s shift at 2 p.m. She said she didn’t know why it hadn’t been charged on this particular day.
“This unfortunately happens from time to time even in our vehicles that run on gas, if they aren’t re-fueled at the end of a shift,” Bosques said. “This incident was truly no different than a vehicle running out of gas and a good reminder to our officers that they should have a full tank or charge to ensure they can make it the entire 11 hours of their shift.”
She said the officer acted responsibly when he notified everyone about the Tesla’s status during the chase.
The Fremont Police Department’s Tesla is the first in the nation to be fully operational as a patrol vehicle, Bosques said. Other agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, have purchased the cars but did not keep them or used them only for events.
Bosques said the agency would continue monitoring the Tesla’s performance.