Chapter 8 All Electric Ambulances
The UK government announced in November 2020 a ban on all brand-new cars for sale with combustion engines will be introduced in 2030. As a result, electric vehicles have gained popularity in recent months.
As well as consumer vehicles, emergency services are getting involved too. Most recently, the first-ever all-electric ambulances have appeared in towns and cities nationwide.
Here is a guide that provides an insight into electric ambulances. It describes how they work and some of the many benefits they provide.
Electric Ambulances in the UK
The latest all-electric ambulance trial started in the West Midlands in October 2020. It was part of a West Midlands Ambulance Service fleet. The battery power gives the ambulance has a fully charged range of 105 miles and reaches speeds of 75 mph. The ambulances can be fully charged within 4.25 hours.
The Benefits of Electric Ambulances
The electric ambulance has many benefits. It is much quicker from a standing start to 30mph than a traditional ambulance. Plus, it's a well-known fact that electric vehicles do well in the snow because of a lower centre of gravity and greater control.
The lack of emissions also allows for cleaner city air. The quieter ride means anyone living on frequent ambulance routes aren't disturbed. Plus, future electric ambulance designs will allow for more efficient use of space. They can reduce costs by offering smaller dimensions, or a larger capacity cabin.
The operating expenses for electric vehicles are much lower. These savings from running an electric vehicle enable the NHS to reapportion budgets and funding where needed, for example staffing. The NHS spends 45% of its budget on staffing each year. Even a fuel saving of £4,000 per ambulance per year could pay for an extra nurse in a small hospital.
Electric Vehicles in the UK Emergency Services
The West Midlands Ambulance Service trial wasn't the first example of electric vehicles in ambulance fleets. Back in 2017, the East Midlands Ambulance Service trialled a BMW i3 First Responder in Nottingham. The i3's small stature makes it perfect for Nottingham city centre's busy streets.
It is not only electric ambulances that have been introduced into the emergency service vehicle fleet. In February 2020, Gloucestershire Police announced that 75 of its police cars' fleet would be electric vehicles. This fact meant 21% of its cars produced zero emissions. Plus, the first plug-in hybrid fire engines exist in Berlin, Amsterdam and Dubai.
Due to their size, hybrid fire engines will save a significant amount in fuel. In the long run, they will be a more cost-effective fleet of fire engines due to the omission of a hefty battery pack. Despite this, emergency services are looking into all kinds of electric vehicles on a smaller scale to introduce into the fleet. Even electric bikes and scooters have been proposed to help in particularly crowded areas or at live events.
Electric Ambulances Save Taxpayers Money
Some believe electric vehicles are more expensive to run in their lifetime. Research from Direct Line shows electric vehicles met price parity in 2020, so now the average electric car is cheaper than petrol or diesel. As a result, when you consider that ambulance maintenance costs a premium for high standards, the savings increase.
A modern diesel ambulance would cost an estimated 24p/mile in fuel. The VCS ambulance is approximately 12p/mile, based on its claims of up to 110 miles off a 96kWh battery. When you consider that the UK's average ambulance does 40,000 miles, that's a £4,000 saving per ambulance, per year. Over a seven-year lifespan, this saving equates to approximately £28,000 per ambulance.
This is before the reduced costs of maintenance get factored in at two-thirds of regular maintenance costs. It doesn't include the potential to outlive combustion engine vehicles by a significant length of time, as not enough data exists to prove this is the case.
Not All EV Batteries Go to Landfill
The most popular myth surrounding electric vehicles is that the batteries aren't recyclable. Current technology allows over 50% of the battery to be recycled.
There are hundreds of individual cells in an electric vehicle battery. It's often the case that the vast majority get repurposed and reused. One EV specialist in the UK is installing these reconditioned batteries into the oldest EVs, giving them twice as much range.
The best use for repurposed batteries is in-home storage and older cars, where newer technologies such as Vehicle-to-Grid charging exists. This technology allows the batteries to reach their full potential, being reused before they are recycled. In many years’ time, these batteries will likely find themselves recycled in a much more efficient manner than today's batteries.
Are Electric Vehicles the Best Solution to the Problem of Pollution?
In a word, yes. But EVs are part of a more significant movement that needs support from all industry and lifestyle areas. It's true that, much of the electricity generated in the UK still relies on traditional fossil fuels. A surge in wind and solar generation uptake reduces the demand on these fuels faster than ever before.
A study conducted in 2018 shows average electric vehicle usage produces 50% fewer greenhouse gases than a traditional engine vehicle. Note, this includes the production process and the effects of running an electric car. One example of such factors is the aforementioned source of electricity from the grid.
It’s important to remember that with renewable energy generation at its highest levels ever, this carbon offset will be even more significant in the long term. Many will argue that the short-term benefits are minimal. The long-term benefits are substantial when the bigger picture is in mind.
Electric Ambulances Are Here to Stay
With more and more research each day going into improving the sustainability of the existing technology and incentives of take-up of EV from the government the adoption of electric ambulances will gain pace and save lives.
If you want to read more of the latest news on the future of the emergency services and industrial vehicles, keep reading our news page for more developments.