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The UK Has Recently Launched Its First All-Electric Ambulance

November 06, 2020 by Luke James

The UK’s first all-electric, zero-emissions ambulance—launched by VCS (Vehicle Conversion Specialists)—was unveiled in early October following the country’s announced plans to begin imminent trials with the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

The United Kingdom’s first electric ambulance from VCS marks the first step towards the country’s vision of running an entire fleet of zero-emissions emergency vehicles. Each VCS electric vehicle (EV), which is dubbed the ‘Electric Dual Crewed Ambulance’ (E-DCA), is powered entirely by lithium-ion batteries that are installed in the underside of the EV’s floor pan in a specially designed and automotive-compliant enclosure.

The ambulance was launched by West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS), which has its headquarters in Birmingham: one of the UK’s five cities that have been instructed by the government to introduce ‘clean air zones’ (much like those seen in London). A recent study found that Birmingham’s toxic air shortens the lives of children by as much as half a year.


A close-up of the side of VCS and West Midlands Ambulance Service’s (WMAS) Electric Dual Crewed Ambulance. Image Credit: WMAS via Birmingham Live.


Keeping Pace as the World Moves Away from Fossil Fuels

Vehicle Conversion Specialists’ all-electric ambulance vans are capable of reaching speeds of 75 miles per hour, have a power output of 96 kilowatts (roughly 129 brake horsepower), and can travel a range of 110 miles on a single charge—which takes 4.25 hours to go from empty to full.

Said VCS’s managing director Mark Kerrigan: “As the world moves away from fossil fuels and towards a zero-carbon future, it’s important that the emergency services sector keeps pace”. Kerrigan went on to say that the recently-launched E-DCA is a strong first step on the path to electrification, and the firm will be able to continue to innovate and improve on their zero-emissions offerings.


Applying an Aerospace Design and Further Considerations

As Andrew Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service has explained, the WMAS and VCS have implemented aircraft assembly techniques during the development of the electric ambulances: the result is an emergency response vehicle that is the lightest in the country and reduces the impact on the environment by reducing carbon dioxide levels.

To develop the zero-emissions powertrain technology that enables the vehicle to be powered by lithium-ion batteries, VCS worked with Europe’s specialist automotive firm Woodall Nicholson. The design of the powertrain has a low centre of gravity and is powered by the said 96-kilowatt battery pack, which provides the speed and range mentioned above.

VCS and West Midlands Ambulance Service’s (WMAS) Electric Dual Crewed Ambulances parked side by side at a hospital. Image Credit: WMAS via Birmingham Live.


The aerospace-type technology found on board also provides enhanced crash structures, which will dramatically improve safety while simultaneously enhancing the design of the ambulance’s saloon. This is to the benefit of both operational staff and patients.

VCS plans to make further improvements to the powertrain so that a two-hour charge time can be achieved. This feat is planned to be achieved before the ambulance hits the UK roads, at such a time when the electric vehicles will be used in response to real incidents.

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