Trending topic: Public safety leads municipal purchasing of electric vehicles

While world leaders debate and approve actions to reduce methane emissions and protect forests, public safety is already putting no-emission EVs into service


While leaders from 90 countries are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, this week for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to discuss climate change and strategies to slow global temperature rise, public safety organizations are already taking action.

Almost every week, we receive news from public safety organizations leading the way with electric vehicle (EV) purchases, new green building construction or renovations, or efforts to better prepare police, fire and EMS to respond to illness, injury or property damage caused by natural disasters.  

Here are some recent news items from fire departments, EMS agencies and law enforcement agencies that showcase the leading role of public safety inside local and state government to accelerate action on reducing emissions and use of fossil fuels through the addition of electric vehicles to public safety fleets.  

Rosenbauer America is bringing its RT electric fire truck to the U.S. market with an order from the LAFD.
Rosenbauer America is bringing its RT electric fire truck to the U.S. market with an order from the LAFD.

All-electric fire apparatus 

Mesa (Arizona) Fire and Medical Department placed the first order of the Vector all-electric fire truck from E-ONE, a subsidiary of the REV Group. The customizable Vector truck has “316 kilowatts of total battery power which enables the truck to pump at 750 GPM through four hose lines for four hours on a single charge,” the company said. The Vector has a 400-kW (536 HP) electric drive motor with regenerative braking. 

The Madison (Wisconsin) Fire Department put into service the country’s first electric fire – the Pierce Volterra zero-emissions pumper in June 2021. The Volterra electric pumper features a 155-kW hour battery pack to meet the City of Madison’s daily duty cycle.  

The City of Portland (Oregon) Fire and Rescue has plans to put a Volterra pumper in service at the city’s busiest station in spring 2022. 

Rosenbauer America is bringing its RT electric fire truck to the U.S. market with an order from the LAFD and has been showing off the truck this fall with visits to other U.S. fire departments

[Read next: Electric fire pumpers are more than simply green technology]  

All-electric ambulances 

Ambulances have unique regulatory requirements to transport a two-person crew, a large amount of patient care equipment, and at least one patient secured to a cot -- requirements that are not easily met by converting existing electric passenger vehicles or fleet vehicles. To meet the need for an all-electric ambulance, several manufacturers have announced plans to develop and build an EMS-specific electric vehicle platform.  

Lightning eMotors and REV Group, Inc., have partnered to develop an all-electric ambulance, based on Lightning eMotors' fourth-generation Lightning Electric Transit Van, by the end of 2021. The vans offer up to 105 kWh of battery capacity and can be charged via Level 2 AC charging or DC fast charging, according to the companies. 

Demers Ambulances and the Lion Electric Company unveiled the Demers eFX Ambulance, the first all-electric and purpose-built ambulance, in October 2021.
Demers Ambulances and the Lion Electric Company unveiled the Demers eFX Ambulance, the first all-electric and purpose-built ambulance, in October 2021.

Demers Ambulances and the Lion Electric Company, a leading manufacturer of all-electric medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles, unveiled the Demers eFX Ambulance, the first all-electric and purpose-built ambulance, in October 2021. The new ambulance is scheduled to be ready in the second half of 2022. 

Not every EMS response requires a patient transport vehicle. In 2020, the Eugene-Springfield (Oregon) Fire Department began working with electric vehicle company Arcimoto to test the three-wheeled Rapid Responder. The vehicle, which can travel at a top speed of 75 mph, features a miniature lightbar and siren, 360-degree scene lights, a cargo compartment, equipment rack and seating for two crewmembers. The vehicle might be useful for special event standby or areas not easily accessible to a full-size ambulance.  

Community paramedics in Sudbury, Ontario, are responding to non-urgent, scheduled patient appointments from a Tesla Model 3. And the City of Greater Sudbury’s Paramedic Services has four Teslas that are used during the daytime and charged at the station overnight.  

All-electric police patrol cars 

Police departments from coast to coast have been adding Tesla’s to their patrol fleets for several years. In 2018, the Fremont (California) Police Department purchased a used Tesla Model S and had the vehicle outfitted into a standard cruiser. The patrol vehicle is configured and treated like any other cruiser, working up to 11 hours in two shifts a day.  

Fremont PD, joining many other police departments, is having a Tesla Model Y outfitted as a patrol car. The crossover SUV Model Y might be better suited for patrol officers as it has a larger door, more rear legroom, more cargo space and a higher cargo bay.  

The Eden Prairie (Minnesota) Police Department put a Tesla Model Y into service this past summer to replace a Dodge Charger. The department expects the cost of maintaining the Model Y to be close to or possibly lower than an internal combustion engine patrol car. The department plans to evaluate the vehicle’s performance, maintenance costs and operational costs before deciding on additional Model Y purchases.  

Many other departments are adding Teslas to their fleets:  

Tesla isn’t the only manufacturer of electric vehicles used by law enforcement. The Ford Mustang Mach-E was tested by the Michigan State Police to determine if it’s a viable option for law enforcement. Ford reported that the Mustang Mach-E passed the tests of acceleration, top speed, braking and high-speed pursuit, as well as emergency response handling characteristics. 

The Chevy Bolt EV is used by some law enforcement agencies, but with its more compact size, lower range and recent battery problems it may have a harder time catching on with police departments who have a rapidly expanding set of vehicles to choose from. The Rivian R1T pick-up is getting rave reviews and the Ford F-150 Lightning pick-up specs and fleet price should be getting the attention of every municipal and public safety fleet manager.  

Electric vehicle charging 

Depending on how a public safety agency plans to charge their electric vehicles, they will need to install either level 3 direct current chargers or level 2 alternating current chargers. Level 3 chargers, like the Tesla Supercharger network, quickly replenish a vehicle's battery but are much more expensive to install. Level 2 chargers, which most consumer electric vehicle owners use at home, are lower cost and less expensive to install, but take longer to charge the vehicle.  

The Leon County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office recently deployed the EV ARC solar-powered EV charging system from Beam Global to charge the department’s electric vehicles. The system generates and stores its own electricity and can be used day or night and during power outages.  

Electric vehicle adoption will accelerate 

Though electric vehicles are currently a fraction of a percent of total vehicle purchases by fire departments, law enforcement agencies and EMS organizations, I expect that to change rapidly in the next few years. A combination of successful implementations, lower cost, higher performance, accelerating technology, increased vehicle options and lofty carbon emissions reduction goals will drive more and more electric vehicle purchases in the years ahead.  

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