Image credit: Falck.dk
January 15th, 2019 by Jesper Berggreen
Today, in a press release in my home country of Denmark, the Denmark-based first responder and ambulance operator Falck announced that it has developed an ambulance on the platform of the Tesla Model X.
Falck operates in over 20 countries worldwide, and provides ambulance services in close cooperation with the national authorities. With over 2500 ambulances, Falck is today the world’s largest international ambulance operator. So, why not go ahead and try to implement the electric vehicle era in the fleet?
Indeed, and why not do it with a roomy, fast, and long-range Tesla Model X? (Sorry Nissan, too late with the e-NV200, even though it is roomy.)
First responder & first mover
In total, Falck has more than 5000 vehicles around the world, but very few are powered by electricity. Rescue tasks require a lot of energy, which is inconsistent with an electric car’s limited battery capacity. However, that has not been the case with Tesla vehicles for some years now, and more manufacturers are getting in the game at around 100 kWh of capacity and beyond. “In Falck we are concerned with using less fuel. It is beneficial both for the environment and the economy, and since no one else in the world has yet made an electric ambulance, we ourselves decided to develop one,” says Jakob Riis, CEO of Falck.
Separate electricity & heating
One challenge has been the fact that an ambulance uses power for much more than just driving, which can deplete the car’s battery too fast. It was crucial to solve this so that the patient is safe during transportation as well as actually reaching the hospital. Running out of juice in any EV is no joke, and in an ambulance it would spell disaster. Jakob Riis elaborates on the system:
“We use separate electric systems in the car, which means that all auxiliary equipment is not powered by the car’s own battery, so things like emergency lights, sirens, radio, medical equipment, and cooling/heating equipment is run in a separate system which is charged prior to departure, and backed up by a fuel cell that constantly charges the system on the road.”
The fuel cell is powered by methanol, and this fuel is also used directly for heating:
“So even on a frozen winter day on the highway, where the rescue personnel often wait at length for the rescue operation of the patient being moved into the ambulance, we can guarantee that a warm car is ready for the patient. This is a very important element in a future of electric powered ambulances.”
Other than starting with patient transport around Copenhagen in electric vehicles, this particular test car will be used in the ambulance service in the southern region of Denmark. “I also expect to see more in the ambulance offering, and we will be better prepared than anyone else. We have both the desire and the duty to develop the ambulance segment, and I am pleased that we already have the first electric car in operation,” says Jakob Riis. “It is being tested under real-life response with rapid acceleration and hard braking, and this has never been done before.”
Falck is an international leader in ambulance services and healthcare. For more than 100 years, Falck has collaborated with local and national authorities to prevent accidents, illness, and emergencies; to rescue and help the injured and distressed quickly and competently; and to rehabilitate the sick and injured. Going electric will surely make these services faster, cleaner, and more reliable.