NewsCalifornia News


First all-electric fire engine unveiled at California fire station

Posted at 3:30 AM, Dec 13, 2019

Many across Silicon Valley are in search of the next big gadget. Usually, something to fuel productivity without necessarily having to rely on fuel itself.

Menlo Park Fire District leaders are looking to bring the world's first all-electric fire engine to the Bay Area.

"When I came into the fire service, I was told, 'The fire service is 200 years of tradition, only impeded by progress,'" Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman told ABC7 News. "Well, we're throwing that out. That doesn't make sense. We're in Silicon Valley."

Chief Schapelhouman said Rosenbauer, an Austrian-based firefighting tech company, reached out three years ago.

He was initially skeptical, but trusted Menlo Park Fire District fleet mechanic, Rudy Torres' recommendation.

"We sent our mechanic to Austria," Schapelhouman said. "What really did it for me was when he came back and said we can do this."

Torres found the $6 million all-electric engine required fewer moving parts, which ultimately meant less maintenance.

It would also eliminate demand for diesel, in turn keeping firefighters from cancer causing fumes.

The Fire District explained the all-electric technology makes sense. Adding, fire engines only travel short distances before returning to their home base, or fire station.

Additionally, Menlo Park Fire District said most emergencies only last 30 minutes or less. This specialized engine can be shut down once it arrives at an incident. The District said this is proof that an electric motor is very practical, efficient and environmentally responsible.

Demand on the power supply and battery is expected to be minimal as well, as more than 90% of all emergencies are short duration incidents, like medical incidents, vehicle accidents, alarm soundings and other calls.

"It's the future," Torres said. "And unless people embrace it, they're going to be left behind."

However, we've seen a battery powered pursuit leave Fremont PD behind. In September, the station's Tesla wasn't fully charged and ran low on juice during a chase.

"I think you've got to be able to fail sometimes too to say, 'How does that never happen again,'" Chief Schapelhouman said. "Because, if you think that doesn't happen to motorized equipment -- we have engines down on a regular basis for a variety of reasons too."

To avoid running into that problem, he said the electric vehicle will be equipped with a redundant battery system and small booster motor for longer duration responses and incidents like fire calls.

In a release to ABC7 News, the Fire District explained this would be incredibly helpful whenever there is need for greater reliability for an essential and critical emergency response vehicle.

The Fire District still needs approval from the Fire Board, Schapelhouman explained.

Officials from Rosenbauer are expected to meet with board members on Thursday.

"If we do sign a contract, we're going to be one of the premiere Fire Districts that are going to say, 'Hey, we helped design this,'" Torres explained.

Chief Schapelhouman said if all goes as planned, people could see one of these all-electric fire engines on our roads as early as 2022.

On Thursday, Dec. 12 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., there will be a community open house for residents, local businesses and school programs.

You can take a closer look at the concept fire truck at Fire Station 6 at 700 Oak Grove and Hoover Street.

Then from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Special Public Board Meeting involving an official Rosenbauer presentation and draft agreement information will take place.