Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s two new pumper trucks, slated to be delivered in the fall, will have battery-powered idle-reduction technology. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo’s newest fire trucks will come with idle-reduction technology

Pumper trucks arriving from U.S.-based manufacturer will use battery power to save fuel

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s newest fire trucks will come with batteries included.

The City of Nanaimo is replacing two of its aging fire trucks with new ones featuring idle-reduction technology that’s making its way into fire department fleets across North America.

The two new pumper trucks, currently under construction at Pierce Manufacturing in Wisconsin, will arrive in Nanaimo this fall. The trucks are anticipated to lower fuel consumption by 30 to 40 per cent because of a power management system that automatically switches to lithium-ion batteries when their diesel engines aren’t needed to drive water pumps and other equipment requiring high amounts of power.

“Everything we need to run at an incident that’s not really fire-related,” said Nanaimo fire chief Tim Doyle. “It won’t run the fire pump, but it runs all the radios and lights.”

Doyle said the travel distances to most incidents in Nanaimo are short, but once a fire truck is on scene its engine is idling and burns fuel just to run low power-consumption electrical equipment. Using batteries to run emergency lighting and communications equipment eliminates fuel consumption for much of the time a truck is on scene, cuts engine noise, exhaust emissions and engine wear and maintenance costs.

Mike Thomson, a Pierce sales representative based in Vancouver, said the company has been built idle-reduction technology into its trucks for about one year. About 40 trucks with the feature have been delivered to fire departments in Canada and the U.S. and the company has orders for another 100 trucks.

Pierce Manufacturing, a division of OshKosh Corporation, has long been a supplier to Nanaimo Fire Rescue and delivered the department’s newest $1.56-million aerial ladder truck last summer.

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The fuel savings numbers, Thomson said, are what is being quoted by fire departments already using the system.

“That number is actually coming out of the field,” Thomson said. “It’s over our initial estimates. We were expecting to see 25 to 30 per cent fuel savings and we’re seeing those numbers being reported back as higher. We’re going to be able to take a much deeper dive into it probably after a full year of reporting to really get a big broad spectrum of the marketplace.”

The vast majority of a fire truck’s service calls aren’t for fires that require high power from the main engine to drive pumps. Over the past 12 months, Nanaimo firefighters responded to 4,610 calls of which 513 were fire calls including 100 structure fires.

The new trucks’ batteries are designed to deliver 150 amperes of power for about one hour. Doyle said the system imposes no penalty on the trucks’ equipment storage and water-carrying capacity.

“We have the same run power output, the same pumping capacity. In fact, these engines will have more capacity, in terms of compartment space, than our other apparatus,” he said.

The system is a step in a technological transition to fully electric fire apparatus that could become standard in the future.

Austria-based fire apparatus manufacturer Rosenbauer is currently testing its Revolutionary Technology series of electric fire trucks – which have electric drive trains and power systems, but use a backup six cylinder Volvo-Penta diesel generator to recharge the system in the field – with fire departments in Berlin, Amsterdam and Dubai.

The fire trucks from Pierce represent Nanaimo’s move toward hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles that started with hybrid cars in the 2000s. The city bought its first Nissan Leaf electric car in 2012, had its fleet of Zambonis for its skating rinks converted to electric power several years ago and now even employs electric bikes for staff members to inspect and service park trails.

Doyle said custom features ordered in the new pumper trucks are based on input from a local design committee made up of chief officers, a fire officer, firefighters and other representatives within Nanaimo Fire Rescue who helped identify specific equipment and layout needs for local use.

“There’s a lot of department input on these,” Doyle said. “It goes through quite a rigorous process, so it’s not just me ordering fire trucks.”

One cosmetic feature the new pumper will share with the aerial truck purchased last year is the new black and red Black Diamond Engine Co. paint scheme.

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