In a way, we’ll fight fire with electricity

Just like any other piece of hardware meant to make our lives easier (or save them, for that matter), fire trucks have evolved and improved over the years. While the very first fire-extinguishing tools were mere hand-action pumps that took water out of a bucket or large tub and sprayed it onto burning buildings, we can tell you with certainty that there’s now an all-electric fire truck ready to report for duty.

Revealed in prototype shape back in 2016, Rosenbauer’s fire truck, still dubbed CFT (Concept Fire Truck) was unveiled by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District’s fire chief with firm assurances that the department will buy one such vehicle to complement its firefighting fleet.

Is an All-Electric Fire Truck Really Viable?

One attribute that stands for every fire truck out there would be this: customizable. In fact, make that ultra-customizable. See, a fire truck needs to be adaptble depending on the environment it serves. You’ve got your urban fire trucks, of course, but then there are wildland firefighting vehicles that need to be smaller and better in off-road conditions, you’ve got airport crash rigs, and heavy rescue vehicles used after railway or tram accidents. Thus, each of these vehicles must sport different abilities, according to their ‘workplace.’

Coming to the Rosenbauer CFT, its makers say it’s been designed with driving safety, agility, simple operation, and driving performance in mind.

Which kind of makes sense, since it is supposed to zap from the fire station to the actual fire through urban areas. In this sense, Rosenbauer fitted the 18-ton (36,000-pound truck with two electric motors (one for each axle), rated at 180 kilowatts (240 horsepower) and 425 Newton-meters (313 pound-feet) of torque each. Considering that your average fire truck stays in service for 13 to 15 years, an all-electric powertrain would do a lot to help attain that lifetime – or even surpass it – thanks to its innate reliability compared to an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) setup.

The World Now Has an Electric Fire Truck - Let's Just Hope the Battery Doesn't Die En-Route
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What’s more, the agility aspect was given the utmost attention because, well, a fire truck must handle better than your, let’s say, school bus or garbage truck. To achieve the handling abilities of a ‘large sports utility vehicle’ – those were Rosenbauer’s words – the CFT has a center of gravity that’s 20 centimeters (inches) lower compared to your run-of-the-mill fire truck. It even has a 50:50 weight distribution ration between the two axles. Allegedly, the CFT can swiftly change lanes at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (roughly 44 miles per hour). Oh, and yeah, they’ve put those characteristics to the test on a racetrack, as you can see in the video below:

Naturally, you must be wondering what will happen in the event the fire truck’s battery depletes during a call. Well, there actually is a safety net concocted by Rosenbauer to prevent such a misfortune. According to CBS San Francisco, the truck has a diesel generator as a backup power source (think of it as a range extender), so that’s a pretty useful plan B when other people’s lives are at stake.

The all-electric fire truck is the exact opposite of cheap

The World Now Has an Electric Fire Truck - Let's Just Hope the Battery Doesn't Die En-Route
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According to the letter of intent posted on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District website, the downpayment alone (which lets the brigade reserve a production slot for the electric fire truck) is $200,000. On top of that there’s a $100,000 first payment due after the pre-construction meeting, a $700,000 pre-shipment payment after the final inspection at Rosenbauer’s factory, and a final payment due after arrival and inspection at the Fire District. Draw a line and you get a hefty $1,112,900 price tag.

While that’s certainly not cheap, Rosenbauer says that its all-electric fire truck offers what it calls ‘direct value potential.’ In English, running it would lead annual savings of several thousand dollars, assuming that the rig is battery-operated 90 percent of the time over a fire department’s annual average mileage of about 6,200 miles.

The World Now Has an Electric Fire Truck - Let's Just Hope the Battery Doesn't Die En-Route
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What’s more, Popular Mechanics reports that average prices for a conventional fire truck similar to the CFT revolve around $500,000, and that’s before you’ve vectored in the additional equipment and the final rig configuration. So, taking it all into account, a $1 million+ price tag might not be that far-fetched after all, given that an all-electric fire truck will eat up less money for maintenance and running.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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