First Electric Fire Truck in North America Made by Pierce Manufacturing Now in Service at Madison (WI) Fire Department

Pierce Manufacturing Inc. has introduced the Volterra electric pumper, delivering it in May to Madison (WI) Fire Department for use at the department's Station 8. (Photos courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)

By Alan M. Petrillo

North America’s first electric fire engine, manufactured by Pierce Manufacturing Inc., has been in service at Madison (WI) Fire Department’s Station 8 for nearly three weeks and has responded to 200 calls with what the fire chief calls “flawless performance.”

Madison Fire chief Steven Davis dubbed the Pierce Volterra pumper “the coolest fire truck in the world.” He says the electric pumper, “Drives one hundred percent 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.”

Dave Archer, Pierce’s vice president of engineering, says 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-kW hour battery pack, specially designed to meet Madison Station 8’s daily duty cycle, and housed in an 18-inch-wide compartment at the rear of the crew cab.

The pumper has a Cummins ISB 6.7-liter 350-horsepower (hp) diesel engine to power its 1,500-gallon per minute (gpm) pump, and to serve as a backup if the battery pack becomes depleted. Gross vehicle weight rating on the pumper is 42,000 pounds, the rig has a 500-gallon water tank, a Command Zone™ display on the pump panel and on the dash, and 150 cubic feet of compartmentation, plus ladder storage space.

The Pierce Volterra pumper built for Madison Fire is powered by a 155-kW hour battery pack, and an Oshkosh™ patented parallel-electric drive train with an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission.

Jim Johnson, Oshkosh Corp. executive vice president and president of Fire & Emergency, points out that the Madison electric pumper uses an Oshkosh patented parallel-electric drive train featuring an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission. “This allows zero emissions operation when powered by the integrated onboard batteries,” Johnson says, “and can be coupled to the Cummins diesel engine to provide continuous and uninterrupted power to the pumping system or the drive system.”

Davis notes Madison had Pierce configure the pumper’s operation “to run the pump off the diesel engine in order to simplify operation for our firefighters so they don’t have to worry about draining the battery. When the operator puts the vehicle in pump gear, the diesel automatically powers up. It also will automatically power up if the battery becomes depleted, with the switch over happening seamlessly.”

Davis says the pumper carries 500 feet of 5-inch LDH (large diameter hose), and has two 300-foot 2-1/2-inch cross lays, and one 300-foot 1-3/4-inch cross lay. “We have not had the electric pumper at a working structure fire yet, but it has extinguished some motor vehicle fires,” he points out. “On the 200 calls that we’ve responded to with this engine, we have not had to switch to diesel, except for the car fires and to collect data for further development of the vehicle.”

In addition to the Pierce Volterra electric pumper, Oshkosh has developed the Striker® Volterra hybrid Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) vehicle, available in both its 4×4 and 6×6 models.

The electric pumper is charged at Station 8 using a fast charging station, Davis notes. He says the range on the vehicle is designed to cover 24 hours of use at Station 8. “We designed the electric pumper for Station 8’s territory, figuring two miles out and two miles back,” Davis says. “For 24 hours of use, we get about 37 miles before having to recharge. But with the fast charger, the vehicle charges very rapidly between calls. Even if the battery were flat, it would charge to 100 percent in less than 90 minutes.”

Johnson says there’s a second vehicle being developed in the Volterra platform of electric vehicles. He notes the Striker® Volterra performance hybrid Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) vehicle is making its debut at airports across the country this summer and fall. “Based on Oshkosh proprietary technology, the new Striker Volterra is a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) that has developed to meet the growing emergency response and environmentally-conscious needs among airports of all sizes,” Johnson says. The vehicle will be available on the 4×4 and 6×6 chassis platforms.

The Striker Volterra 6×6 vehicle configuration has a modular cab design with a center steer driving position, seating capacity for five persons, powered by an Oshkosh patented parallel-electric drive train with an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission, a Scania DC13 diesel engine, and an Oshkosh power divider, with TAK-4® all-wheel independent suspension. The vehicle has a 50-foot Snozzle® HRET (high reach extendable turret) with an Oshkosh K-Factor™ piercing tip alignment system, 2,000-gpm pump, 3,170-gallon water tank, 444-gallon foam tank, and 550-pound dry chemical powder system.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Ariz.-based journalist, the author of three novels and five non-fiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including the position of chief.

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