MUKILTEO — There are lots of Teslas in Mukilteo, but this one has lights and sirens.
People often don’t realize that, though, until it’s in their rearview mirror.
That’s the point.
What’s up with that?
The police department’s new black Tesla Model Y blends in with traffic.
“That’s the reason the guy flew by me as I was coming here,” traffic officer Al Gonzalez said. The guy he snagged was going 63 in a 40 mph zone on the misnamed Mukilteo Speedway.
I met up with Gonzalez at Lighthouse Park. It was a media stop, thankfully, not a traffic stop. This squad car has plenty more of those in its future.
“Police” is in subdued lettering on the sides. The top is slick. The lightbars are inside and inconspicuous.
“People have their guard down, because they don’t see me,” Gonzalez said. “People on the phone, following too close, even like today the speeder blowing by.”
Gonzalez is the man in the Tesla. The city’s other traffic officer rides a motorcycle.
The traffic Tesla hit the streets of Mukilteo near the end of July.
“I usually get a double-take when people see it,” Gonzalez said. “I had one gentleman, he was afraid to stop. He said he was a little apprehensive. He didn’t know police had Teslas. He was shocked.”
A few violators have told him, “Nice ride.”
The car draws its critics.
“They’ll be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know Mukilteo had the budget for a Tesla,’” he said.
Actually, it’s the police department’s fourth Tesla as part of its “green fleet” initiative. Three other Teslas, two Model Ys and a Model 3, are for detectives, unmarked and of undisclosed colors.
This is the first Tesla pulling traffic duty. Total cost with the cage, lights and other crime-fighting gizmos was about $75,000.
“That’s about the same cost that we have budgeted for the patrol SUVs to get them all outfitted,” Police Chief Cheol Kang said.
It is the same Tesla model in a pilot patrol test by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in 2021. The car has been reassigned as an investigations vehicle.
“There are currently not enough rapid charging stations throughout the county for this vehicle to be used on patrol,” sheriff spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe said in an email.
So far, in the bedroom community of Mukilteo, the police charging stations provide enough juice.
Mukilteo’s new Tesla replaced a 2013 Ford Interceptor sedan (sequel to the Crown Vic) that the department donated to Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center for teen auto students.
“They got that thing fixed up, cleaned up and functional,” Kang said. “They were able to give it a little bit of life back.”
The Tesla came with a mind of its own.
“The Tesla is basically a giant computer that they built a car around,” Kang said.
Teslas are equipped with basic autopilot.
“Our staff have been directed that we will NOT use that function,” he said.
According to data.wa.gov, there are about 5,000 Tesla models registered in Snohomish County.
“A few years ago it might have stood out, but there are so many on the road now,” Kang said. “Hopefully word spreads and it gets people to change their behavior when driving. It’s an amazing force multiplier, because it makes you think twice whenever you see a Tesla coming towards you.”
The Tesla is scoring high marks for performance. Unlike its gassy cousins, there’s no idling. The tireless workhorse pulls a 10-hour shift with juice to spare and gets charged overnight.
Talk about instant torque.
“It goes 0-to-60 miles an hour in 3½ to 4 seconds,” Gonzalez said. “It handles really well around curves.”
The Tesla stops traffic when it isn’t doing the stopping.
The car was a whale of an attraction parked at Lighthouse Park.
“Can I take a picture?” asked Bob Wang, a visitor from New York. He wanted to show his police friend back home.
Mukilteo resident Phil Salditt contemplated committing a crime.
“What can I do to get arrested? I’ve always wanted to ride in a Tesla,” he said.