Gilbert Fire and Rescue is adding an electric-powered pumper truck to its diesel fleet, becoming the second Valley municipality to go this route.
Town Council approved spending $775,000 to buy the Volterra fire engine and $270,000 for an electric vehicle charger. Fire officials said the town is getting an electrified fire pumper at a substantial price reduction with minimal upfront cost.
The purchases were on the June 28 consent agenda, approved unanimously without discussion.
Mesa Council last fall authorized $1.4 million for an all-electric fire truck, which is expected to be delivered later this year. Los Angeles Fire Department was touted as the first in the nation with an electric fire truck, which in May.
Electric fire trucks are touted as emission free, which cuts down on pollution, is quieter, allowing for clearer conversation among firefighters, require less maintenance and reduce the use of diesel fuel.
Gilbert will pay $100,000 by December and then $225,000 for each of the next four fiscal years to Pierce Manufacturing in Wisconsin. The department already uses pumper and ladder trucks designed and built by Pierce.
The fire engine, which is equipped with water, a pump and hoses, is expected to arrive at Gilbert’s doorsteps within 18 to 22 months.
The Volterra fire pumper is one of the first four electrified fire pumpers produced by Pierce Manufacturing.
Under terms of the agreement, Gilbert’s electric fire engine will be a loaner for five years and upon expiration or early termination, the vehicle is to be returned to Pierce Manufacturing.
However, Town spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison said after the five years, the truck “will have been purchased outright.”
She said that the expected purchase price for a Town-specified Volterra is approximately $1.4 million and Gilbert has the ability to purchase the engine at half the price.
And “the Town negotiated the fee structure to shift the financial risk later in the agreement,” Harrison said in an email. “To further minimize the financial risk, the Town can return the Volterra to Pierce at any time if it is determined that the Volterra does not fit our needs.”
The company has agreed to a $50,000 discount for each additional electrical vehicle, limit 10, that Gilbert may buy.
Under the agreement, the town will help Pierce improve its technology by collecting data such as on the truck’s battery life and durability while operating in the hot, arid Arizona climate.
Gilbert Fire also will gather and analyze data to determine if the Volterra is meeting its needs, looking at operational costs of the apparatus compared with its diesel trucks.
The department anticipates savings in maintenance costs as the chassis uses electric power in everyday operations and would only resort to the internal combustion engine for backup power in extended emergency operations, which means less wear and tear on the engine.
The pumper will take the place of another pumper that is scheduled to be retired in Fiscal Year 2024.
Harrison said Gilbert’s fire apparatus will be similar to the first pumper that Pierce customized for the Madison Fire Department.
“Gilbert’s version will have the same electrification drive-train features as the Madison version but (with) updated batteries,” she said. And “Gilbert’s version will have a velocity cab, the same as our current ladder trucks, with the remainder of the pumper built to our pumper specifications.”
Harrison said the department recommended partnering with Pierce on this venture for a number of reasons.
She said town mechanics are experienced apparatus with working on Pierce and the company will provide Gilbert with a custom pumper “that has virtually no trade-offs to our high-performance standards.”
“Gilbert’s version will operate just like our other pumpers, which is important for our crews,” Harrison said. “The only difference is the switch between electric and diesel power.”
Additionally, the Volterra maximizes the strengths of electric operations for daily responses and legacy internal combustion operations for infrequent long-term pumping on fires, according to Harrison.
“Other manufacturers rely upon onboard diesel generators to provide an extended range or long-term pumping on fires,” she added. “Either way, diesel-generated power is required to ensure extended responses.”
Harrison said Gilbert Fire expects to operate the Volterra exclusively on battery power unless engaged in extended firefighting operations.
Harrison why the Town didn’t wait to see how Mesa’s experience with its electric fire apparatus explained from manufacturer E-ONE turns out before going ahead with purchasing its own pumper.
“It is unknown when Mesa will be in actual receipt of their purchased electric fire truck nor if the specifications on their truck will meet Gilbert’s requirements and specifications,” she said. “Each manufacturer is building electrified fire pumpers differently. There is no guarantee that the electrification systems of the Mesa truck would translate to other manufacturers electrification solutions.”
And, she pointed out, the information is proprietary and there is no assurance that the data gathered by Mesa would be available to Gilbert.
“The Pierce Volterra was successfully piloted as a working fire pumper in Madison, Wisconsin, for 14 months, allowing Gilbert to assess if this innovation could be brought to Gilbert,” Harrison said. “The Mesa pumper is a first-of-its-kind, proof-of-concept apparatus that has not undergone any simulated or real-world trials.”