MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) -- The Menlo Park Fire Protection District fire chief showed off the world's first all-electric fire engine Wednesday evening and announced plans to add one to the department's fleet by the end of 2021.
"Electric vehicles are not new, it's only new to the fire service," said Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
The fire engine, which is black and yellow and looks more like a bus than a typical red fire truck, is made by Austrian company Rosenbauer. The burning question, of course, is whether the fire engine could run out of juice during a call.
That Fremont Police Department found itself in that scenario in September when its Tesla patrol car nearly ran out of battery during a car chase because someone had forgotten to charge it. The officer was forced to pull back from the pursuit.
"I'm not concerned about that and I'll tell you why, because we, in the design phase, we'll make sure that we don't have a single point of failure," Schapelhouman said.
The fire engine is electric, but it does use diesel to fuel the generator for its back up battery. It can run for about eight hours. If the engine is still out on scene after eight hours, more diesel can be added to keep the back up power supply running.
Schapelhouman said they plan to make changes to the truck to fit the department's needs. It'll first be used and tested as a rescue truck before an engine for fighting fires.
He said the cost of an electric engine is about $1.2 million, which is comparable to a traditional tiller ladder truck. But the electric engine will save them money in the long run because there is no need for fluids, filters or fueling it, he said.
Rosenbauer representatives plan to present a drafted contract to the Menlo Park Fire District Board on Thursday on what purchasing an electric engine would look like. To secure an engine, the department would have to put down a $200,000 deposit.
Schapelhouman said the bottom line is that the electric engine is better for the environment and could potentially be the future of firefighting.
"The emissions on diesels are carcinogens and so that's not good for the environment, it's not good for the health and safety of our personnel and it's not good for the public to breathe," the chief said.
The engine will be at Fire Station 6 on Oakgrove Avenue between 1-5 p.m. on Thursday for the public to get a closer look.
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