It looks like a cross between a robot, a bus and a motorhome. Until it lights up and moves. Then it’s a fire engine. An electrically powered fire engine.
The Empire Emergency Apparatus at Lockport Road in Niagara Falls held a pumper demonstration on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls for firefighters from Niagara Falls, Buffalo and North Tonawanda on Friday.
Todd McBride of Rosenbauer America presented the advanced technology of the truck, a 7 year old demo model.
Ringing LED lights from the back illuminate work areas with glare-free and shadow-free lighting. Ladders and pipes are stored inside.
North Tonawanda Fire Chief Joe Sikora was on hand for the demonstration.
âIt’s quite a change from what we’re used to,â Sikora said. “Times are changing. Fire trucks have been the same for a long, long time.
The truck is full of automation. For example, on many traditional internal combustion trucks there are several switches and buttons that must be activated before going on a call. Additional tasks are due on arrival. Everything changed.
âI would say a word,â said Niagara Falls Fire Chief Joe Pedulla, â’Tesla’. We have to adapt to the new generation. It’s just the progression of life.
With the electric fire truck, releasing the parking brake activates the appropriate lights and prepares the truck for action.
Upon arrival, engaging the parking brake opens the gear boxes and equipment for immediate access. These bays have shelves that swivel like an easy-close kitchen cabinet. When time is alive, seconds count.
The truck is also faster and more manoeuvrable. With 4-wheel steering and no drivetrain or transmission, the water tank sits lower in the body, reducing the center of gravity of the four-wheel drive truck.
âThat’s why we say this thing behaves like a sports car,â McBride said.
Indeed, during the demonstration, McBride did a test ride. The truck easily hit 50mph before pulling over to First Street and using its 4-wheel steering to almost swivel into place.
The pumps operate independently of the drive motors. A diesel generator is available if the batteries are discharged. It has enough power to run the pumps and recharge the batteries. Even so, in typical use, up to five strokes are possible before a recharge is necessary.
A truck is currently under construction for Los Angeles. Another is on duty in Berlin, McBride said. In 440 calls over 4 months, he used 2.4 gallons of diesel.
As McBride spoke, Niagara Falls’ two newest fire trucks sat on the sidewalk. Both were built by Empire with President Mike McLaughlin there.
Empire builds a wide variety of emergency vehicles, including 12-15 fire trucks per year and approximately 450 other vehicles.
“Business is going well,” McLaughlin said, “we’ve been a bit slowed down by the supply chain, waiting for vehicles and because of the job market. A build takes 14 to 16 months instead of 12.”
It is difficult to estimate the cost of the truck because, although it may cost more initially, between $ 1 million and $ 1.5 million, the equipment required to equip it increases the costs.
Niagara Falls Chief Joe Pedulla said lower maintenance and operating costs are a big plus. For example, he said his department just paid $ 3,000 to replace the alternator on a 2003 truck.
McLaughlin is thrilled with the advancements that the Rosenbauer truck represents.
âWhen you start looking at green spaces, it’s calmer, it’s greener, everything is recyclable. There is no fiberglass, âsaid McLaughlin. âLook at the auto market. We no longer drive 55 Chevrolets. This technology dates from the 80s and 90s packed in a fire truck. People need to see the benefits.
McLaughlin said the first five years of maintenance is included in the cost of the truck. Overall, given the lack of maintenance, for example things like oil changes and fluids, the cost of ownership will be significantly reduced.
âBeing the home of Tesla,â McLaughlin said, âwe should get the first electric fire truck in New York State here.â