All Electrical Fire Apparatus?


Fasten your seat belts, a new concept of fire apparatus is in the works. Fire apparatus of a Type 1 through Type 6 are headed to optional offerings of Electric Vehicle (EV) drives. From apparatus EV drive only to fully functional on-board components. All operations are to be from onboard batteries, fully rechargeable at local charging sites or Governmental Fleet Ops sites. 

But, hold on Trigger, not so fast. Let’s think the process through. An ALL electrically operated fire apparatus or support vehicles may be somewhat shortsighted. To be fully ready for an all-hazards concept that we have today, the onboard motor to propel and operate the vehicle by means of petroleum internal combustion motors is the norm at this juncture. To replace this current style apparatus with ALL electric vehicles could/may result in fire apparatus being down with dead batteries. This is unacceptable.  

So, to consider the all-hazard situations in the electric vehicle, there has to be a backup system to replenish power to the battery pack when the vehicle is out of the station for extended periods of time. To that end, those who are running electric vehicles in the research and development process have seen the need and answered the issue with an onboard engine-driven generator to replenish the batteries during those long-duration situations and where and when electric power is not available. That onboard engine-driven generator is what the apparatus manufacturers are calling the “Range Extender”.  In actuality, it is a hybrid vehicle.

So, you think you won’t be going more than a few miles from the firehouse on a call and return within a few hours at most. Think again. All-Hazards mean exactly that. Let’s envision your area is in the middle of flooding, hurricane, snowstorm, raging wildfires with extensive rescue incidents back-to-back-to-back.  Power will be interrupted and sometimes for weeks at a time.  Can we run EV fire apparatus and support vehicles in all-hazard situations? Sure, we can, but only if the EV vehicles are what we know as Hybrid vehicles. Normal day-to-day operations can be 100% battery operated and recharged back at the station or at Fleet facilities, or civilian/public charging stations. 

Major fire apparatus manufacturers are going through the R&D process of testing the new EV concept for fire apparatus. All have bought into EV and have well thought out the need for the Hybrid process. To name a few: Pierce Fire Apparatus has a test vehicle in the field at a fire station for daily long-term evaluation of their product. The REV Group has their own design in the field for the same testing and evaluation and is offered through their full line of apparatus manufacturers. Rosenbauer has their own European design EV apparatus making the rounds throughout the U.S. and Canada with several fire departments lined up to purchase their product. More and more will join the line-up of manufacturers offering EV’s. The end result is the same with all manufacturers that choose to delve into the concept. What is being produced currently is a line of test and evaluation vehicles operating in what we know as the R&D stage. Ernie believes that many EV apparatuses will be on the street and in fire stations five years from now. And, it will be within your reach depending on the cost of purchase projected cost analysis.  

Is this whole process something that we operators and mechanics have asked for? No. The whole EV evolution is being driven by politics and environmental mandates. When the full EV comes to be, we shall see. Uncle Ernie has been on this planet for 75 years and has seen quite a bit of change in the fire service. 

Like it or not, get ready. It is coming like a freight train headed your way. Embrace it. Like it, or not, it is progress.

This may not be for you………yet.

Anthony Bulygo (A.K.A. “Ernie”) spent 34 years as Master Fire Mechanic/EVT (Emergency Vehicle Technician) for the Santa Clara County Fire Department serving in the daily routine operation, service, maintenance, inspection, training and repair of fire apparatus and fleet. He is a Certified California and Master EVTCC Aerial Apparatus Instructor for both EVT’s and Driver/Operators. Retired for the last 18 years, he provides Aerial and full line apparatus training for the California Fire Mechanics Academy and multiple Fire Department EVT academies in the US and Canada. He serves as an inspector, investigator and expert witness in product liability cases and court cases pertaining to mechanical failures. He served as a Committee Member and advisor to IFSTA (International Fire Service Training Association) Pumping and Aerial Apparatus D/O Handbook, Aerial Chapters.

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