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VCS launches UK’s first all-electric frontline ambulance
VCS, specialists in emergency vehicle conversions, has launched the country’s first all-electric ambulance to be used in frontline service. Entering service in October 2020, the electric dual crewed ambulance (E-DCA) will be operated by West Midlands Ambulance Service in a trial to assess key development areas for electrified ambulances in the future.
The E-DCA is powered by 92kWh lithium ion batteries located in the floor of the vehicle. With a power output of 129bhp (96kW), the E-DCA has a top speed of 75 mph and can achieve a range of 105-110 miles with a recharge time of 4.25 hours.
VCS is the largest producer of emergency service vehicles in the UK. Currently, more than 40% of all front-line ambulances in use across the country were manufactured at its facility in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
The product of more than 800 hours of intensive research and development, the E-DCA includes a number of design elements that ensure it is as versatile and usable as possible. These include a unique rear door damp assist system, hospital chair gang way accessibility, intelligent run lock management and an OLED graphical HMI keypad.
Safety remains paramount, so the E-DCA also features high impact zone protection, a low centre of gravity and a tilt angle of 41.5 degrees.
Mark Kerrigan, managing director at VCS, said: “As the world moves away from fossil fuels and towards a zero-carbon future, it’s important that the emergency services sector keeps pace. VCS has always been at the forefront of emergency service vehicle innovation, so we saw it as our duty to bring the pioneering E-DCA to market. The vehicle launched today is a strong first step on the path to electrification and we’re confident that by working with outstanding operators, such as West Midlands Ambulance Service we can continue to innovate and improve our zero emissions offering.”
Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust, added: “West Midlands Ambulance Service has been at the forefront of developing ambulance technology along with our partner VCS. By using aircraft assembly techniques during the construction of our ambulances, we have created the most hi-tech and lightest ambulances in the country, which reduces our impact on the environment by reducing CO2 levels and ensures that patients receive the highest standards of safety and comfort. It is therefore a logical next step for us to be the first ambulance service in the country to introduce a fully electric ambulance.”
In the development of the E-DCA, VCS has harnessed the full capability of its parent company the Woodall Nicholson Group, which it joined in 2019.
A key element in the development of the E-DCA was ensuring that the all-electric powertrain could offer the reliability, versatility and longevity necessary for a front-line ambulance in the real world. The Woodall Nicholson Group has already carried out extensive EV powertrain development and implementation work for heavy duty applications, and so together, VCS and Woodall Nicholson’s powertrain engineering team set about developing its proven EV powertrain for use in an electric ambulance.
This involved re-evaluating many aspects of the powertrain, none more so than packaging. Due to the way front-line ambulances are used, it is important to have a low centre of mass, which was achieved by repackaging the batteries into the floor of the vehicle.