5 October 2021

New plug-in hybrid fire truck blazes a trail for zero-emission emergency vehicles in the ACT

| James Coleman
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Fire truck

An artist’s impression of the new fire truck wearing its ACT Fire and Rescue colours. Photo: ESA.

The siren is the only thing you’ll hear when the ACT’s electric fire truck comes to town.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) will take delivery of Australia’s first Plug-In Hybrid Electric Fire Truck in the first half of next year.

The plans date back to August 2019 when the ACT Government announced it would work with Austrian company Rosenbauer to pioneer the engineering of their Concept Fire Truck to suit local fire services.

At the time, the government received some criticism from the United Firefighters Union (ACT UFU). The union only became aware of the deal through media reports.

The union questioned the immediate need for such a vehicle when Canberra’s firefighting teams were facing more significant unresolved issues, including having no official procedure to effectively extinguish battery fires in electric vehicles.

This week, however, a formal agreement was signed and the ACT UFC is on board. No mention has been made of the cost.

Rosenbauer founded an Australian sales and service arm in mid-2017 in Brisbane, overseeing the sale of firefighting vehicles and equipment in Australia and New Zealand.

Fire truck

The truck will come fitted with a drone for aerial reconnaissance. Photo: ESA.

The ‘Revolutionary Technology’ (RT) truck, with its 100 kWh battery pack and backup BMW diesel generator, is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by about 185,000 litres over 10 years.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the new truck would feature a range of benefits for ACT Fire & Rescue firefighters, in addition to providing a significant reduction in emissions produced compared to a conventional diesel-powered fire truck.

“Firefighter safety and comfort is at the forefront of the design of this new truck, and it will feature a better use of its internal space and greater crew protection in comparison to the existing vehicles in our fleet.”

Much like a bus, entry and exit to the truck is via a side door, designed so that firefighters don’t have to stress their backs and knees clambering up and down the side.

The truck will come equipped with solar panels to help recharge the batteries and can be plugged into a high-voltage industrial socket whenever it’s not on duty. A full charge can be reached in 30 minutes, giving 8 to 10 hours of useable driving time.

Fire truck

You won’t be able to miss it. Photo: ESA.

It will also come equipped with a drone for aerial reconnaissance, an ideal extra for bushfires.

Mr Gentleman said the arrival of the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Fire Truck was a crucial component in the ACT achieving its emissions reduction targets.

“The ACT Government has committed to reaching a target of net zero emissions by 2045. Investments in new technology such as the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Fire Truck are a crucial pillar in how we can be innovative in achieving this.”

The RT will sit alongside the 34 diesel-powered vehicles in the ACT Fire & Rescue fleet which currently includes Pumpers, an Aerial Appliance for fighting fires at varying heights, a HAZMAT unit for hazardous materials and two Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) Tankers.

A report published by the RMIT University in Melbourne earlier this year investigated the efficiency and effectiveness of the ACT Fire Services, using facts and figures from the Productivity Commission.

An ACT firefighting truck in March 2020, hounding the ACT Government for a new EBA. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The data showed the ACT funds its fire services at a lower rate than Australia as a whole, and despite an increase in this funding over the last 12 months, it still isn’t on par.

Despite having fewer paid and volunteer frontline firefighters, the ACT punches above its weight according to the main effectiveness and efficiency measures such as deaths, injuries, insurance claims, response times and containment of fires to rooms of origin.

Fire also isn’t the only emergency department to see an injection of resources in recent times.

Last week, the ACT Government announced $15.2 million in funding over the next four years to continue the transformation of the ACT Ambulance Service.

This will see improvements to the ACT Ambulance Service and Emergency Triple Zero Communications Centre to support the growing frontline demand for emergency services and five new low-emissions vehicles introduced into the ACT Ambulance Service fleet.

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What a waste of money

How many litres of water does it take to put our an electric firetruck fire?
None.. You can only let it burn out and that might take a day or two..

What might cause a fire? Trying to charge it when its -5C

William Newby6:37 pm 09 Oct 21

We are again being taken for mugs – no disclosure on the cost of this “revolutionary technology”?! We are constantly fed bread and circuses in this city with zero cost benefit explanation.

Capital Retro6:19 pm 08 Oct 21

Not the best choice for a climate like Canberra has (and getting warmer as some believe):

EV owners in North America have discovered this during cold snaps that owners of Chevy Bolts and Tesla Model 3s told CNBC they were seeing at most 50 percent less range in their vehicles.

Extreme heat is also a drag on electric vehicles. When outside temperatures heat up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioning is used inside the vehicle, driving ranges can decrease by 17 percent, AAA reports. Extreme temperatures certainly play a role in diminishing driving range, but the use of the vehicle’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in these conditions — particularly the heat — has by far the greatest effect.

The problem is that, unlike a car with an internal combustion engine that can warm the cabin with waste heat, EVs have to tap into their batteries to power the climate control system.

Less battery power means more charging, which increases the cost to operate the vehicle. AAA’s study found that the use of heat when it’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside adds almost $25 more for every 1,000 miles compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Farenheit? Which continent are you on?

Capital Retro5:39 pm 09 Oct 21

The continent where the problems have been reported by AAA.

If I converted them to Celsius one of my minders would have asked me why they weren’t in Fahrenheit.

So you seriously believe that when purchases like this all that isn’t considered?

I’m just dumbfounded at the negativity around this story and the number of experts coming out of the woodworks having their laughable says.

Actually I tell a lie. I’m actually not dumbfounded the comments are to be expected going by the kind of comments anything about renewable energy and technology. No wonder this country is in an environmental mess.

Capital Retro8:08 am 10 Oct 21

From the manufacturer’s web site. CFT means “Concept Fire Truck”

“The drive of the CFT is purely electric, that is, electric motors provide the drive on both axles. With the battery storage installed in the CFT, a purely electric journey of approx. 30 km is possible, which is basically sufficient for a wide range of typical fire department operational journeys. In addition, the CFT also has a so-called range extender on board. This diesel engine drives a generator and, if necessary, provides sufficient energy supply should the journey or operation take longer or the battery level reach a critical level.

The main feature of the concept study is not only the electric drive, but also electric operation at the scene. For example, the extinguishing water pump can also be powered electrically for a limited time. For longer operations, it is possible to switch over to the direct mechanical drive using the range extender.

The power supply unit integrated in the CFT, which provides electrical energy from the battery storage, also offers an advantage for the emergency crews at the scene. This eliminates the need to carry a power generator, which generates not only electricity but also noise and exhaust gases.”

So, it’s range with electric power only is a whopping 30km. But it is equipped with a “range extender” (diesel generator).

If all this spin was considered favourabaly JC, then I too am dumfounded that we have idiots in control of this place who can waste a million dollars on a virtue signaling and useless concept.

Are you seriously trying to use the inefficiency of a ICE in creating excess wasted heat burning fuel into a positive for heating the cabin?

No seriously, not unexpected but this is extremely impressive mental gymnastics.

Capital Retro,
If you read a bit further on that website, you would have read that the “Concept Fire Truck”, was indeed the early development of this, not designed for actual deployment.

Which has now been developed into the “RT”, which is the truck we are getting.

Jeez you do seem pretty hyped up over what is basically an early model trial of newer technology. Technology which will eventually replace the older vehicle fleet as the development improves. It’s almost like you can’t handle any form of change.

Capital Retro12:08 pm 10 Oct 21

The new concept fire truck only has a battery range of 30km so it will be almost totally dependent on the waste heat from the diesel generator (integrated power supply unit) anyhow to provide comfort. The cabin is a large one to accommodate a crew so a lot of heating and cooling will be required. The trouble with you warmists is that you won’t let anything challenge your “science is settled” narrative so you denigrate the messenger. I really don’t know what you mean by “mental gymnastics” but is sounds dimissive.

Capital Retro with the old virtue signalling line. What bullcrap. It is high time Australia starts to embrace renewables and more energy efficient transport like this.

We are so far behind the rest of the world it isn’t funny. When it comes to electricity I can understand the reluctance in Australia seeing how big the coal industry is. But fuels for vehicles I am totally baffled as we have no industry to protect and are totally reliant on imports (and even when we reminded here).

The world started using hybrid heavy vehicles coming on for 20 years ago now, 15 in wide spread use. Buses, trucks you name it. Except is is a technology that seemed to miss Australia.

The world has also started using electric heavy vehicles maybe 10 years ago and more wide spread staring around 5. London for example is now generally ONLY buying electric buses which can do a whole shift on one charge. Canberra is heading that way too, yet all we hear here is constant whining about virtue signalling. For a technology that is now mature.

And whilst I must admit this is the first time I’ve heard of an electric fire truck, I just cannot see what the issue is. The technology is mature so no reason what so ever if cannot be applied to a fire truck. Yet all we hear is more whinging and not picking of issues that I have no doubt what so ever have been considered and addressed by the design engineers. Especially ones from Austria where I think it gets a tad colder than Australia.

Finally I have no idea what the issue is with denialists like yourself. Time to give the bleating a rest and move with the times.

Captital Retro,
What’s a “warmist”? Is that like you trying to use motor inefficiencies for warming the cabins as a positive?

You aren’t a “messenger” of anything but a closed mind. You already had determined what you thought of this when you heard it was a hybrid vehicle.

It’s truly hilarious to hear you claim to be challenging a pre determined position from anyone else, when your position was set before you even read the article.

Capital Retro10:29 am 08 Oct 21

Will it only be deployed to fight emission-free fires?

Capital Retro2:56 pm 07 Oct 21

If it meets fires on the scale of the 2003 ones it will need only one forward gear and five reverse ones!

Capital Retro8:44 am 07 Oct 21

Maybe they should have got a bigger drone:


Tom Worthington3:49 pm 06 Oct 21

The claim of “8 to 10 hours of useable driving time” on batteries for Canberra’s new hybrid fire trucks doesn’t appear credible. One quarter of that is more likely. The vehicle has only a 100 kWh battery, smaller than the new Ford F-150 ute, which is a much smaller vehicle. For comparison, Canberra’s electric buses have a 324 kWh battery, more than three times the fire truck.

That doesn’t make a hybrid fire truck a bad idea. However, the bigger innovation appears to be the adjustable height of the vehicle, making them safer at speed, than being hybrid. https://www.rosenbauer.com/en/au/rosenbauer-world/vehicles/municipal-vehicles/rt

Capital Retro12:48 pm 06 Oct 21

This is old news. As reported on another thread the cost is one million virtue signaling dollars.

This is beyond ridiculous. Our emergency services should be in the best vehicles equipped to attend emergencies.

Any nefarious person or organisation could easily stop these vehicles from attending emergencies with an EMP (instructions easily found on Google).

Marlon Leicester11:18 am 06 Oct 21

You do realise that any combustion motor with electronic fuel injection is just as susceptible to an EMP as any EV?
Are you suggesting carburetted emergency services vehicles?

@jwinston Oh Wow! If we are thinking that way, they could also just use an IED as well! (don’t google that!)

Oh btw, modern vehicles have so many electronics in them anyway…

Ok – here’s another question. Will the water pumps be electric? In the past they were run by the diesel motors on the trucks. I doubt batteries could be as productive working a pump putting out a large fire.

Here is another answer. The Rosenbauer RT can use either pump type and, as the article says, has both electric and diesel motors. The electric pumps can be driven by battery or the diesel generator.
Also easily found via Google.

Capital Retro3:35 pm 06 Oct 21

And it is a BMW generator so spare parts are readily available. Even has a drone for fetching the morning coffee.

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