Two Kia e-Niro cars have been launched as the first fully electric emergency response vehicles by South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS).
The two electric vehicles (EV) have been designed and adapted by South Central Fleet Services to contain all the equipment, medication and supplies to allow first responder paramedics from SCAS to reach patients quickly under emergency driving conditions – generating zero emissions in the process.
Charles Porter, director of finance at SCAS, said: “I am delighted that these first two fully electric, zero-emission emergency response vehicles will shortly be introduced to our operational fleet. I would like to thank everyone in the project team for their determination and commitment to delivering this significant step in our strategy to continually reduce our environmental impact.
“As an organisation, we operate over 1,300 vehicles to deliver our services so being able to move to fully electric vehicles will be vital in order to deliver our environmental goals. We are key partners in national projects to deliver zero-emission emergency vehicle fleets and we are already exploring how we can bring electric vehicles into our emergency ambulance and patient transport service operations.”
SCAS began its search for a suitable electric vehicle over 18 months ago, testing a number of vehicles and making use of the latest advances in electric motoring technology.
Nick Lambert, head of education – driving at SCAS, said: “We tested quite a few electric vehicles and the Kia e-Niro came out on top every time as an all-round, versatile option for what we were looking for in our emergency response vehicles. Our staff will require extra training before taking the Kia e-Niro out on the road. Electric vehicles perform slightly differently from traditional vehicles. We’ll need to train staff in how much more responsive they are in terms of acceleration and how to drive using regenerative braking, which allows us to regain energy whilst the vehicle is moving to extend its range.”
The Kia e-Niro has a driving range of up to 282 miles on a single charge of its large 64kWh lithium-ion battery – well within the estimated 90-100 miles that an emergency response vehicle will cover in an average 10-hour operational shift. Charging points are available at the Trust’s ambulance stations, as well as local hospitals, so the vehicles can easily be topped up if needed whilst on standby.
Gregory Edwards, vehicle commissioning unit manager for South Central Fleet Services, said: “It was really exciting for my team and I to be given the opportunity to design the vehicles from the ground up, taking them from a standard electric road vehicle to an emergency response vehicle. There were a number of challenges we had to overcome, including ensuring the additional electric systems needed in an emergency vehicle wouldn’t drain the battery, emergency light fittings, weight and space limitations, but we’re really pleased with the end result and our operational colleagues can’t wait to get behind the wheel and take them out to help our patients.”
These first two electric vehicles will be based at the Trust’s Oxford City resource centre as part of an initial pilot study. Once the anticipated performance, cost and environmental benefits have been proven under normal operational conditions, it is expected that further electric response vehicles will be rolled out to all areas that South Central Ambulance Service covers.