Since the introduction of the Concept Fire Truck (CFT) in autumn 2016, many fire departments and experts in the field had an opportunity to learn about the special functions and ergonomic benefits of the vehicle concept. As it turns out, some of the trends in the industry that the CFT offers solutions for appear to be particularly important. At the top of the list are health and safety, followed by environmental aspects fueled by the climate crisis, the mobility mega-trend, and ongoing urbanization.
Amongst the countless functions of the CFT, the following innovations stand out the most: driving safety, agility (i.e., small turning circles), simple operation, ergonomics, and driving performance.
The Concept Fire Truck thus meets the loftiest demands of the political debate and society at large for lower emissions, and it combines this perfectly with a working tool that is 100 % in alignment with the requirements of fire services.
But what about cost-effectiveness? Can a company or fire department even afford such a vehicle in the future?
The most important aspect that must be considered is the usefulness of this vehicle concept. This usefulness can be assigned a value, the so-called use value. It is important that this use value is considered over the entire product life cycle in relation to the acquisition cost in order to get an all-encompassing perspective.
The usability or use value can be established by comparing the CFT to vehicle concepts that are currently in use, whilst it is also logical to make a direct comparison to future concepts that are built upon electric truck chassis. A distinction is made between direct and indirect value potential.
Direct value potential
For the CFT drive concept or future production vehicles with CFT technology, the use value is attributable to the potential savings for maintenance, and even more so in relation to energy costs. If the vehicle is operated battery-powered for 90 % of the time and assuming an average annual mileage of a fire department of about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), this would lead annual savings of several thousand euros in consideration of today’s cost of energy.
The following illustration compares the economics of different types of drives. Here you can see what it costs to travel 100 km (62 miles) with a car.
As the turning radius is significantly lower with the CFT technology when comparing vehicles of the same length, the vehicle can be a bit longer, which means additional space for equipment in the vehicle. Moreover, the special vehicle design with balanced axle load distribution means that the maximum permissible axle loads can be stretched to the limit. Both of these effects result in the optimization of the vehicle load and thus the fleet, for example if the equipment of several specialty vehicles are used in standard vehicles. Further costs can be saved due to the fewer points of contact necessary during procurement, training, and service. Over the entire life cycle this can yield a cost value potential of over EUR 100,000. An exact number can be relatively easily ascertained prior to acquisition.
Indirect value potential
However, the lion’s share goes to the so-called indirect value potential. These result mainly from the highly functional and ergonomic vehicle architecture and the networked embedding of the vehicle in digital system solutions.
The primary benefit here is that the health and operational readiness of the firefighters is massively supported. Ergonomic features in which the person is not required to reach (up) to get the equipment, but instead the vehicle is lowered so that the equipment is level with the person, will over time and many operating hours make work much easier on the personnel and protect the musculoskeletal system. In particular, the low entrance height and the standing height in the crew compartment offer a lot of comfort and safety.
By lowering the vehicle, it is also possible to dispense with hinged steps, which not only have ergonomic disadvantages, but can also represent a safety and injury risk. This makes prolonged, fatigue-free work easier and improves failure statistics.
In addition to physical strain, the psychological stress of the emergency crews is also becoming an increasingly important factor. Due to the large battery capacity, it will be possible in the future to work purely electrically at the site of operation over a long period of time. Energy for lighting and various other secondary consumers will be available for hours – and all of it without any noise or exhaust emissions. On top of it, the mains emulation with a connected load of 18 kW means that no generator is required.
The vehicle can also be used as a safe Wi-Fi hotspot, which means it can also be operated and its functions monitored via a tablet outside of the vehicle. And with the integration of the EMEREC operations management system all relevant information can be displayed in the vehicle and retrieved via the deployment tablet. In addition to the classic status information (tank level, foam content, pump pressure, etc.), various databases (hydrant information, chemical data, vehicle and building data, etc.) can be accessed in real time. This results in a highly efficient way of working, which, for example, allows the machine operator to temporarily step away from the vehicle in order to assist his or her colleagues.
Simple and intuitive operating concepts ensure that there is no excessive demand and that it is easy to keep control, meaning that even older generations who were not raised in the digital age can make the right operating decisions calmly and in a concentrated way. The operating philosophy is not only appealing and well thought-out, but also state-of-the-art. Just like generations Y and Z expect it to be.
And that’s what it’s all about, after all, that enthusiasm for the fire brigade is fostered by technological progress and that many young talents will continue to be motivated to take up this challenging and exciting profession in the future!