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Rosenbauer RTX LAFD electric fire truck.jpg
Los Angeles Fire Dept.’s Rosenbauer RTX electric fire truck.

Fire Trucks Going Electric

Los Angeles Fire Chief Kristin Crowley notes the electric truck is quieter than a conventional truck and has far less of the noxious emissions that can threaten firefighters’ health.

Electrification continues showing up in specialty vehicles such as fire trucks, a segment once the exclusive domain of the internal-combustion engine.

In a YouTube video posted on the Los Angeles Fire Dept.’s website, the department says it recently took delivery of a new diesel-electric fire truck.

It is the first electric fire truck from Rosenbauer America, the world’s largest designer and maker of fire apparatus, put into service anywhere in North America. The Minnesota company has been demonstrating a prototype electric fire truck to departments around the U.S. since 2019, but LAFD was the first to acquire one.

Fire Chief Kristin Crowley notes the electric truck is quieter than a conventional truck and has far less of the noxious emissions that can threaten firefighters’ health. “We’re going to create a safer space for our firefighters to be healthy around our fire equipment,” she says.

The Rosenbauer RTX can operate on battery power for two hours before a 6-cyl. clean-diesel engine kicks in to recharge the truck’s two batteries. One of the lithium-ion batteries lies flat in the center of the truck between the front and rear axles while the second sits vertically just behind the cab.

Todd McBride, Rosenbauer America sales manager, says the RTX is equipped with an adjustable suspension with settings as low as 7 ins. (17 cm) for easy egress, 14 ins. (36 cm) for off-road travel and 19 ins. (48 cm) so the truck can ford water up to 3 ft. (0.9 m) deep.

The onboard 500-gallon (1,893-L) water tank on the RTX has been moved forward of the rear axle so it sits on the center of the truck on top of the battery pack, McBride says.

In addition to the lower center of gravity created by the position of the battery and water tank, the RTX is equipped with all-wheel and crab steering to make it more maneuverable on streets, McBride says. The mirrors have been replaced by cameras that provide views around the vehicle and automatically switch to night vision after dark.

The RTX also is equipped with touchscreens for controlling equipment such as the pumps that can draw water from a lake or stream. The interior cab with its flat floor and seats for seven is spacious enough for a 6-ft., 2-in. (188-cm) firefighter to stand without ducking.

Other makers of fire apparatus have designed EV fire trucks.

Pierce Volterra Madison WI electric fire truck.jpg

The fire department in Madison, WI, recently put into service a diesel-electric fire truck (pictured, above) produced by Pierce Mfg., the fire truck-building subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp.

The Pierce Volterra pumper is built on a Pierce Enforcer custom chassis and cab with seating for six firefighters. The rig is powered by a 155-kWh battery pack specially designed to meet Madison Station 8’s daily duty cycle.

The pumper has a 350-hp Cummins ISB 6.7L diesel to power its 1,500-gallon (5,678-L) -per-minute pump and to serve as a backup if the battery pack becomes depleted.

Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis tells Fire Apparatus magazine the Pierce Volterra pumper is “the coolest fire truck in the world.” He says the electric pumper “drives 100% like a traditional pumper. It has a lot of electric torque, and our drivers love how it handles and how quiet it is in the cab.”

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