Mar 13, 2024 | UK News

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) is now part of a national programme to test zero-emissions emergency response vehicles, and the electric vehicle (EV) trials will be shortly due to shift up a gear soon.

Covering six counties, the 7,500sqm of EEAST’s operational region ranges from cities to rural areas and rugged coastline. For some of the 6.2 million residents, an emergency journey to a cardiac centre can mean a 70-mile trip, with the fleet of 500 vehicles racking up 16 million miles a year.

As well as the significant fuel costs, this causes inevitable impact on the environment, so EEAST has taken a keen interest in zero-emissions technology and has been an early adopter of electric vehicles (EV). It has used alternative fuel vehicles (such as the Nissan Leaf) successfully in support services for some years.

In 2022, EEAST was selected to be part of NHS England’s Pathfinder scheme, trialling new technology to help the NHS reach its net zero carbon emissions pledge by 2045. It was awarded £250,000 to buy three fully electric response vehicles and provide charging infrastructure.

Several different EVs were tested before two Skoda Enyaq sport line models and a Vauxhall Vivaro people carrier were chosen. The Vivaro is in use in a co-responding scheme with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

To date, EEAST has focused all trials on non-patient-carrying vehicles, and the next stage will be to use this learning process to decide how electric double-staffed ambulances could be trialled.

Initial ambulance trials will include safety processes such as shadowing (i.e. an empty electric ambulance shadows a diesel vehicle to observe its performance under emergency driving conditions) and later reverse shadowing (an electric ambulance carries a patient but is shadowed by a diesel vehicle).


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