Let’s say you need to send an emergency vehicle into a long tunnel to respond to an accident or a medical emergency. Do you choose A.) an all electric vehicle with no carbon or particulate emissions that consumes no oxygen during its operation, or B.) a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle that sucks up the available oxygen and turns it into a non-breathable stew of carbon dioxide and particulate emissions? If you said A, go to the head of the class.
Norway is a country that has lots of long tunnels that speed motorists though its many mountains. Sometimes, bad things happen inside those tunnels and first responders have to go in to rescue the injured, put out fires, and the like. Traditionally, gasoline or diesel powered trucks were the only vehicles available for such duty, but things are changing.
According to Elbil, the official publication of the Norwegian electric vehicle association, Gauldal Fire and Rescue in the city of Trøndelag has begun trials of an battery electric emergency vehicle based on a Chinese-made Maxus EV 80 electric van. About 20 Maxus EV 80s are being used by the Norwegian Post, which is working to lower its carbon footprint by using more electric vehicles to deliver the mail in Norway.
Volkswagen also makes an electric delivery van, the e-Crafter, but in side by side trials the Maxus was preferred because it has a longer range and sliding doors on both sides. The van being tested was converted by Ferno Mobility, which specializes in rebuilding various emergency vehicles and other specialized vehicles.
“Experience shows that internal combustion engines can have operational challenges in dense fire smoke. In addition to lack of oxygen, large amounts of soot particles in the air cause the air filter to clog on a regular car. Electric cars have no internal combustion engine and are therefore perfect for this purpose,” says Geir Engely of Ferno Mobility.
Engely has prior experience with the ambulance service and as an emergency response instructor and accident investigator from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. “This is the first in what we hope will be many such electric tunnel evacuation cars. Ideally, a car like this should be mandatory in connection with larger tunnels, both during their construction and after they are put into operation,” he says.
The converted Maxus EV 80 has a range of 200 kilometers and includes a complete tunnel evacuation system. “With air supply to twelve evacuation masks, two smoke diver kits, and a separate swivel smoke diver’s chair for rescuers, the evacuees are safeguarded on their way out of the tunnel,” says Engely. The rescue vehicle is equipped with thermal cameras front and rear, making it possible to drive in dense smoke or totally darkened tunnels. It also has the ability to quickly replace air supply for several rounds of evacuation:
“The car has replaceable bottles that are compatible with those that the fire department uses for smoke diving, so you can easily recharge the air bank and make several rounds into the tunnel,” Engely points out. He thinks there could be other uses for an electric evacuation vehicle as well. “It may also have a function in gas leaks and other accidents where the air may be contaminated.”
Hat tip: Are Hansen