NHS develops electric ambulances with Ford
The British National Health Service (NHS) is planning to purchase a fleet of fully electric ambulances. For this purpose, the NHS will cooperate with Ford and the Venari Group to develop a corresponding vehicle based on the Ford Transit.
According to a report in the UK’s Daily Mail, the electric ambulance will be unveiled next month at the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham. According to the report, the ambulance will be designed for a two-person crew and offer a range of 250 miles, or about 400 kilometres. Production is scheduled to start in 2022.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the powertrain will be that from the E-Transit that Ford unveiled in November 2020, or an in-house development for the NHS. Last year, Ford spoke of a WLTP range of up to 350 kilometres for Europe.
According to the report, Venari CEO Oliver North calls criticism that the infrastructure in the UK is inadequate for the use of electric vehicles in emergency services “unfounded.” “The vehicle will be able to do more than enough miles on a single charge to meet the demands of a typical shift,” North said. “We anticipate that it will be deployed most often in an urban environment, where it may do as few as 70 miles a day, with a lot of stopping and starting in traffic and at junctions. It has more immediate acceleration than a diesel and will give a smoother ride.”
For their part, Ford and the speciality vehicle equipment supplier Venari announced a strategic collaboration in early July 2021. The jointly developed ambulance, based on the Ford Transit, is to be assembled at Ford’s Dagenham facility in London starting in 2022. This will involve using an existing site where no vehicles have been manufactured to date, whereby around 100 jobs are to be created.
Until now, Ford and Venari had only hinted at the development of an electric ambulance. Ford has emphasised the vehicles’ lightweight construction solutions, user-friendliness for paramedics during patient treatment and advanced connectivity, saying in July this year: “The lightweight design has also been developed to provide a future-proof solution for ambulance operators looking to move to zero-emission fleets.”
The UK government famously decided to allow only zero-emission cars and vans from 2030. The NHS, which the Daily Mail says is responsible for four per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions (not just from its fleet), aims to reach net-zero by 2040. In July this year, the NHS ordered 500 more Nissan Leafs (up from 350 vehicles the previous year), and at the beginning of last year, the NHS ordered 700 Jaguar I-Paces.
Also this year, an electric and H2 fuel cell-powered ambulance was put into operation in London in February this year. Most recently, in April this year, a zero-emission rapid response vehicle was put into operation with the West Midlands Ambulance Service. British Vehicle Conversion Specialist, VCS for short, kitted out an electric car for first responders based on the Jaguar I-Pace. Although not capable of taking patients, this RRV has a greater range. In line with Jaguar, VCS specifies a range of up to 292 miles (around 470 kilometres), with the ability to add up to 78 miles of range per 15 minutes when ultra-fast charging (100kW), and a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds.