View new Electric Rosenbauer Concept Fire Truck on Dec. 12 at Fire Station 6

by Linda Hubbard on December 10, 2019

The public is invited to a community open house at Menlo Park Fire Station 6 (700 Oak Grove Ave.) to view the Electric Rosenbauer Concept Fire Truck (CFT) on December 12, 2019, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman asks “why does an All-Electric Fire Engine make sense for a municipal Fire Agency like ours?” Some answers:

Typically, Fire Engines only travel short distances before returning to their home base, or Fire Station, so electric motors make perfect sense.

Most emergencies only last 30 minutes or less and this Engine can be shut down once it arrives at the incident, so an electric motor is very practical, efficient and environmentally responsible.

Over 90% of all emergencies are short duration incidents, like medical incidents, vehicle accidents, alarm soundings and other calls, so demand on the power supply and battery is minimal.

Diesel is currently used to power most Fire Engines, but it is a carcinogen which is bad for the health of the public, our first responders and our responsible stewardship of the air we all breath.

Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts which not only results in less wear and tear, but also maintenance, which often creates costly “down-time” that can compromise emergency readiness, response, reliability and overall public safety.

This electric vehicle will be equipped with a redundant battery system and small booster motor for longer duration responses and incidents like fire calls, where greater reliability for an essential and critical emergency response vehicle is needed.

“An all-electric Fire Engine is both environmentally and socially responsible because of the potential impacts on world-wide climate change and its associated challenges that we are directly dealing with here in California, like wild fires, sea rise and flooding,” said the Chief.

“Everyone trusts and respects firefighters, that’s why we are helping to not only lead the way when it comes to embracing such a revolutionary change in our first response capabilities, but also our environmental stewardship of the communities overall health and welfare, which is so critically important to the greater good of the communities we serve and protect!”

Photo courtesy of Menlo Fire


Paul Tate December 11, 2019 at 10:07 am

And what happens with a fire pumper that has to operate at a major incident for hours, or days….I don’t think there is a battery made that will run a fire pump for a couple of days. This sounds nice but I don’t see it as being very realistic.

Chris Cunningham December 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Paul Tate, exactly what I was thinking. Will they have a portable diesel generator that can be picked up and towed to a working fire? Plus are all the stations getting solar to charge them? Will they need extra rigs in case they are on the freeway for multiple hours multiple times a day for vehicle accidents and can’t get a full charge. Will they have diesel vehicles for the statewide mutual aid plan? None of this is addressed but certainly would love to hear what they plan to do as I have a feeling we will all be forced into this in the future.

Roy December 11, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Stupid idea. If the chief is concerned about fire equipment. Up staff electric squads with 2 people to handle low level calls

Mark Nelson December 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Not sure the electric fire engines will be able to produce enough power/energy to carry a min of 500 gallons of water. Will there now be less water carried on the apparatus? This isn’t in the best interest of the firefighters or the citizens.

Joe LaRocca December 11, 2019 at 1:30 pm

This unit has a 6-cylinder BMW diesel engine with a 40 gallon fuel tank which runs a generator to re-charge the batteries. There is also an option to direct drive the fire pump with the same diesel motor to take the load off the electrical system. Similar to a standard fire engine, so long as you can put fuel in it – it’ll keep pumping or driving (and will be non-DEF since it’s a generator and not a drive engine).
The long-term plan is to use a hydrogen fuel-cell for what is called a “range extender” (currently the diesel) so the unit will eventually be a 100% zero emission vehicle. That said, the infrastructure is not yet in place to support the hydrogen system, so for the immediate future – batteries and diesel if needed for longer duration incidents or travel.

Andrew December 12, 2019 at 7:20 am

Thank you for answering some of the questions I (and others) had Joe LaRocca. I see a limited use for this right now, with overall use growing over time (as most “new” things do).
I’m curious about the weight of the vehicle. Still carrying pretty much the same amount of Diesel on board as traditional apparatus, plus now the charging generator, as well as the weight of the batteries.

Don Croucher December 14, 2019 at 9:02 am

Joe LaRocca, please e-mail me

Kevin Coughlin December 11, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Certainly there are questions. Total run time before the batteries runs out without other equipment running. How long will it run the pump or for a truck, sustain ladder operations. How long will it operate with all ancillary equipment running or charging. How much would it cost to retrofit each bay. How much will the vehicle cost. Estimated life of a battery pack. How much for a replacement battery pack. It’s good to have the discussion as it might reduce the exposure for firefighters.

Rich December 11, 2019 at 2:39 pm

This is moving in the right direction but I believe not with full size engines.
Full size trucks like Middleton Fire District uses, is an example of a proven Rapid Response Vehicle that could easily be built with a battery powered vehicle. The fire pump runs on its own diesel powered motor.
If you research high pressure pumping systems that are proven to suppress a typical house fire, dumpster fire, and vehicle fire, this is absolutely achievable. These systems reduce water waste, water damage, and and contaminated water runoff. Increases rapid fire suppression and reduces carcinogen exposure to firefighters.
This type of vehicle also has the potential to reduce exposure to vehicle accidents, increasing community safety.
Lots of benefits!

Bill Hortmeyer December 11, 2019 at 5:04 pm

I would not want to be on this toy fire engine on a wild land fire. I just do not trust it and it’s 40 gallon generator fuel tank.

John S December 11, 2019 at 7:32 pm

This is absolutely the worst idea ever brought to the Fire Service . It’s an emergency vehicle people. It needs diesel power to run for long periods of time. The Fire Chief may look good to ti the Council and #newgreendeal fanatics but in reality the Chief is risking the lives of his firemen and citizens by relying on a non proven and non practical Prius of an Engine. On top of that what’s the cost to taxpayers . Diesel engines can easily be in service for 20 years .

Bryan M December 11, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Good thing PG & E doesn’t shut down the power during fire season..

Joe December 12, 2019 at 9:43 am

The overall weight is slightly higher than a similar Type 1 Engine as typically equipped. The GVW is 38,900 lbs. which is actually less than most U.S. pumpers (44-47K). The truck can be configured with water tank sizes ranging from 300 to 1,000 gallons; pump sizes from 500 to 1,500 gpm.
With the current battery technology, the truck can run at maximum load (driving and or pumping) for just over an hour. There is an option for a second battery which will double that run time before the diesel engine needs to be used for re-charge. Battery technology is getting better every day and so will the operational limits of the electric capacity of the systems on this unit. As like most major changes in the fire service, it’s coming whether we like it or not. There have always been concerns with these changes (bucket brigades to hand-pumps, hand-pump to steam, horse-drawn to gas, gas to diesel) and it appears that the fire service has made it through all of those changes – we’ll make it through this one as well.

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