British Columbia firefighters got a look at the potential future of their industry Tuesday, as the world’s first electric fire truck rolled into North Vancouver.
The apparatus, valued at about $1.6 million CDN, is designed by Austrian firm Rosenbauer, and at this point remains a concept vehicle.
But Rosenbauer spokesperson Steve John said that will soon change.
“It’s the vehicle of the future,” he said.
“The future is now, because we’re building the first five vehicles as we speak.”
The truck features a 350 kW/475 horsepower electric motor with a range of about 30 kilometres, and a range extender using a diesel generator to supply extra power if necessary.
It can be lifted or dropped to four heights to accommodate terrain or fire crews, something the company says is particularly important given the growing age range and gender diversity of firefighters.
It has a compact exterior designed for dense urban centres, and intensely bright 300,000 lumen LED lights.
The vehicle seats up to 10 crew members, and is virtually silent when operating.
“I can work in my environment without any noise, very clear, and I can also work safely without creating shadow because it illuminates me from all aspects,” said John.
“It’s very compact. We made it to overcome the challenges of urbanization.”
Representatives from about a dozen B.C. fire departments attended the show-and-tell, part of a North American tour Rosenbauer is undertaking.
Based on the presentation, the vehicle received glowing reviews.
“When we’re looking ahead at the future, looking at the technology that’s out there today and projecting out to the technology of tomorrow, these are the type of apparatus that are going to be a part of our fire fleet,” said District of North Vancouver Fire Chief Brian Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said the ability to lift or drop the truck isn’t just good for occupational safety and ergonomics, but could make the difference when fighting a fire in difficult conditions.
“If you were having to make your way through a debris field, if you were working in a wildland environment, this apparatus meets all of those requirements,” he said.
“I look at a potential flood as an example. The height that this apparatus can raise itself and still be operational is significant.”
Resort Municipality of Whistler Fire Chief John McKearney said the truck fits in well with his community’s sustainability goals.
He said the compact design was also particularly appealing.
“It’s narrow, they’ve consolidated a lot of it so they’re not giant machines anymore,” he said, adding that the four-wheel drive feature would also work well in Whistler.
Rosenbauer says the first production models based on its concept truck will be tested as a part of a partnership with the Berlin Fire Department.
There’s no timeline for when they may be fully available, meaning it could be some time before one is spotted on Metro Vancouver streets.