The London Fire Brigade has taken delivery of 52 examples of the BMW i3 electric car in an effort to reduce its emissions footprint.
Obviously, the i3s are not actually fire trucks - they would be worse than useless in that role. They are, in fact, rapid response cars used by incident commanders and other officers to get to wherever they may be needed in the city.
With their red and yellow liveries, LFB branding, blue lights, and sirens, you’ll certainly be able to see and hear the i3s coming, despite the lack of any engine noise. They're equipped with the optional range-extender powertrain, with an auxiliary petrol generator - actually a BMW motorcycle engine - to charge the batteries on the move. Though users have reported the generator rarely kicks in.
The top speed of 90 miles-per-hour (145 kilometres-per-hour) might not sound like much for an emergency response vehicle, but it’s faster than you can realistically go anywhere in central London. More importantly, acceleration from a standstill up to 40 or 50 mph (65 to 80 km/h) will easily beat the diesel-engined Vauxhall Astras that have been used until now.
As a result of its efforts to reduce emissions, the LFB has been accredited by the UK government’s Go Ultra Low campaign, which encourages and incentivises companies to adopt low-emission vehicles. 73 firehouses across London have charging points for the i3s.
London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: “Officers often travel at speed across London, so it was essential the cars could stand up to the rigours of being a ‘blue light’ vehicle, as well as having green credentials. I am proud that the Brigade is leading the move from diesel to electric, which will make a big difference to the air quality for Londoners.
“In our 150th year, while celebrating our past we’re also investing in the future and it’s vital that we adopt vehicles today that future generations will thank us for. Who knows, perhaps in the future we will also be the first brigade to run a fleet of electric fire engines.”
The LFB isn’t the first emergency service force to adopt the i3; earlier this year the Los Angeles Police Department ordered 100 of them.
Brigade first in London to turn all blue light cars ‘green’
We have rolled out a fleet of electric cars in a bid to make it the most environmentally friendly fire brigade in the country.
Fire officers will use a fleet of 52 ultra low emission BMWi3 ranger-extender model cars and a further 5 hybrid cars to attend emergency incidents and other Brigade business across the capital.
Faster and greener
The i3 cars are LFB branded and fitted with blue lights and sirens. They can reach top speeds of 90 mph and go from 0 to 80 mph in seconds and are set to make the us faster and greener.
Taking on the vehicles means we have achieved our ambition to become a 'Go Ultra Low Company' – with a commitment to operate low emission vehicles on at least 5% of its fleet by 2020.
The vehicles will remain part of our fleet for five years, covering an average of 7000 miles a year and will replace a fleet of 60 Vauxhall Astras. It is thought that there are approximately 80,000 electric cars on Britain’s roads.
London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: "Officers often travel at speed across London, so it was essential the cars could stand up to the rigours of being a blue light vehicle, as well as having green credentials.
"I am proud that the Brigade is leading the move from diesel to electric, which will make a big difference to the air quality for Londoners.
"In our 150th year, while celebrating our past we’re also investing in the future and it's vital that we adopt policies today that future generations will thank us for.
"Who knows, perhaps in the future we will also be the first Brigade to run a fleet of electric fire engines."
Transport Minister John Hayes said: "I am pleased that the London Fire Brigade has incorporated electric vehicles into its fleet and is using them to respond to critical incidents.
"Plug-in vehicles are better for the environment and cost-effective to run, and they can be used for a wide range of purposes.
"I am proud to say that we have pledged more than £600m to support the electric vehicle industry up until 2020, including funding for nearly 180 electric vehicles being used by emergency services, hospitals and councils across England and Wales, as part of our goal to make almost all cars and vans zero-emission by 2050."
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: "With nearly 10,000 Londoners dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, I'm delighted to see the London Fire Brigade take this fantastic first step towards becoming the greenest fire brigade in the UK. This will make a vital contribution in improving the quality of life for millions of Londoners."
Staff can charge their cars at 73 fire stations across London. The cars also charge as they drive and the battery of the range extender cars can be topped up via a petrol powered generator.
The hybrid cars have an electric and petrol powered engine. However, officers using the cars have reported hardly ever having to use petrol.
The Brigade is also exploring the potential for electric and hydrogen vehicles with a view to trialling low-emission hybrid vans in early 2017.