Electrical appliance: On the way | Fire station

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A meme about electrical fire apparatus shows a dispatcher answering a 9-1-1 call. The dispatcher says, “Yes, ma’am, I know your house is on fire, but the station’s electric fire pump is still charging.”

The meme has been shared with regularity. We’re not surprised, as many firefighters haven’t been briefed on the inner workings of electric fire vehicles. Like other innovations inside and outside the fire service – even consumer electric vehicles (EVs) – it’s easy for people to get worried and/or second guess a new technology when it leaves the drawing board and arrives on the market. In reality, Fire station magazine applauds a dose of skepticism when warranted. However, based on the responses to questions we posed to appliance OEMs and fire departments who are becoming familiar with electrical appliances, we believe that rigs equipped with electrical transmission will prove their competence and capability. value as soon as possible.

“I hope they have a long cord”

Yes, there are differences in the operation of an electric device compared to the operation of its diesel counterpart, but these differences are few and extremely manageable. Yes, some aspects of charging electrical devices require a learning curve to ensure no surprises emerge at a crucial time. However, no, engine builders need not worry that depleting a vehicle’s rechargeable batteries at the scene of the fire will reduce the water’s ability to ignite.

“We like to compare [an electric engine] to have a Tesla with a diesel generator in the trunk,” says Roger Lackore of REV Fire Group Engineering of his company’s Vector platform. “You’re running a typical all-day urban duty cycle on electricity. You pump for two or three hours on an all-electric residential fire, but if the response is prolonged or you’re somewhere off the grid, the diesel “range extender” will kick in.

Eric Linsmeier of Pierce Manufacturing makes the same point. “There are no size restrictions for the Pierce Volterra pump simply because of the electrified drivetrain. All specific pumper specifications are reviewed and addressed, as would any customer pumper.”

Scott Bavery, who is the Deputy Chief of Support Services for the Madison, WI, Fire Department (MFD), fielded numerous inquiries from other departments during MFD’s collaboration with Pierce on the Volterra shakedown. Among the main questions asked: How long does the vehicle last on a charge?

“The drums have been absolutely amazing for us,” Bavery said. Fire station magazine. “We haven’t really had any problems.”

In addition to its RTX, which is in use – not tested as such – with the Los Angeles Fire Department, and its RT, which the Berlin fire department in Germany has been using for about a year and a half, Rosenbauer has developed a production-ready electric version of its Panther ARFF, the Panther 6×6. The latter can be charged in about 25 minutes for another typical emergency run. Of course, a backup generator is available in case the battery runs out.

Lackore says the Vector has more than enough electrical power to produce 1,500 gpm, although “you just can’t pump 1,500 gpm from a draw for as long” as you could pump from a draw. a fire hydrant.

Certainly, the autonomy of an electric device, like any electric vehicle, can suffer in cold weather, but that is why the RTX, the Vector and the Volterra integrate a battery thermal management system, which keeps the modules battery warm in winter (and cool in summer).

Other details?

Bavery says he and the MFD were just as interested in how the Volterra drives compared to a diesel counterpart as they were in battery life/pumping in place.

“We didn’t want a driver to have to do anything unique or different,” says Bavery. “We didn’t want people to go through a long training course to learn how to drive this vehicle.

In fact, the MFD didn’t have to.

“He drives really similar,” Bavery says. “There are times when [a driver] can feel a bit more power… but it doesn’t feel like a small sports car.

A Volterra will arrive at Portland, OR, Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Station 1 within a few weeks of the publication of this article. The vehicle will replace a conventional engine that needs to be replaced. The purpose of using PF&R will mirror that of MFDs.

From a handling standpoint, Bill Goforth, assistant chief of logistics for PF&R, wants to see how the vehicle performs in the hilly areas of the city, which stretch for more than a hundred miles.

“I’m really excited to have a battery-powered vehicle that’s going to be able to feel powerful to get up some of those steeper hills,” Goforth says.

“I just didn’t expect the acceleration and handling that [Rosenbauer’s RTX] comes with a full tank of water,” says LAFD Deputy Chief of Operations Richard Fields. Additionally, “The vehicle’s stability and weight balance are impressive.” Overall, the vehicle is “simply better than our combustion engine”.

That said, efforts related to Portland’s climate action plan and reducing carbon emissions are central to PF&R’s thinking about electrical appliances, which can also be said for Madison and, to some extent, Los Angeles. Important for the residents of these municipalities, it is also important for the city’s firefighters.

“Firefighters will be safer because [the use of an electric apparatus] will reduce diesel exhaust that can cause cancer,” says Goforth.

“Of course, the ecological aspect of electrical devices is predominant, but the development of vehicles also aims to improve the daily working conditions of firefighters”, adds Todd McBride of Rosenbauer America. He explains that an adjustable suspension that is part of Rosenbauer’s electric vehicle structure is not possible on conventional vehicles because the tires would hit the frame rails of the latter, among other reasons. The adjustable suspension provides a 10-in. step up compared to 24 inches on the company’s conventional counterpart.

What about the much publicized LAFD RTX water tank leak?

“It was a manufacturing issue with the tank itself,” McBride said. Fire station magazine. It had nothing to do with electric propulsion.

Beyond pumps

Rosenbauer plans to manufacture 40 electric pumpers in 2023. For European firefighters, the company has already presented a turntable ladder whose characteristics are exactly the same as those of the conventionally driven version.

Lackore says REV sees lifesaving devices as good on-the-road applications, with near-silent operation being a key benefit. “The noise is more important on a [conventional] pumper or life-saving device equipped with direct-drive or hydraulic alternating-current generators, as they are required to operate [the rig] in high idle mode to produce the necessary power. An electrical lifesaving device can produce AC line voltage without any noise. »

The question of adding aerial devices to the lineup is an example of “crawling, walking, running,” Lackore notes.

It’s OK with the LAFD. “We’ll wait for the market to produce something viable for the towed antenna,” Fields says.

So will PF&R. “In a few years we will be replacing our mid-mount overhead bucket, and hopefully the technology is there. [for electric aerials]especially if we have a charging station already installed at Station 1.”

“Then,” he adds, “of course, our ambulances.”

Demers eFX ambulance prototypes are scheduled to be tested through early 2023, with first delivery to the United States expected in the summer of 2023.

“Early models were used for field trials with EMS vendors which resulted in changes to patient compartment cabinets,” says Greg Tucci. Fire station magazine. Additionally, the cabin roof design has been changed to provide a better aerodynamic design.

Unsurprisingly, the manufacturer praises the high torque and quiet operation of the vehicle.

Lessons learned

What suggestions do the representatives of the three fire departments we interviewed have for those considering electrical appliances?

“Lean on local agencies and power companies to install a charging system,” says Bavery. “There is a way to install a charging system at little or no cost. Our local utility actually donated the charger to us.

Also regarding fire station charging stations, Goforth says it is considering installing solar panels. PF&R Station 1 does, but currently they don’t supply power to the station at this time. “In the future, this is something we can consider: supplying enough electricity to the station thanks to the panels.”

LAFD’s Fields suggests that specifying an RTX to offer adjustable ride heights might not be a deal breaker. “That’s great, but unless I know I’m going to be taking the rig into a wildfire-fighting scenario, maybe I should ask, ‘Do I really need it? daily.”

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