Reliable Performance and Efficiency for Emergency Vehicles With Eco-Tech
It is never a good day when any type of vehicle breaks down, whether it is a passenger car, an 18-wheeler, or a utility company service truck. However, for some vehicles, breaking down or requiring more than routine maintenance is not an option, primarily because of safety and necessity. You always expect vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks to be in the best of condition. Out of all of the vehicles on the roads and highways, both of these vehicles save lives on a daily basis — mechanical failure is simply not an option.
However, the majority of fire trucks across the United States — in every state, county, and town — are equipped with factory alternators. While these alternators are a bit more heavy duty than the ones found in passenger cars and delivery trucks, they still do not solve the problem of inadequate electrical output that is often addressed by revving up engines just to enable the alternators to satisfy the electrical loads.
Let’s think for a moment how fire trucks spend the majority of their time — at idle. These trucks receive local calls, which they must race to, followed by a long period of sitting at idle. Unlike regular passenger cars and trucks (and even heavy-duty trucks), a specialized vehicle such as a fire truck experiences a large electrical load while at an emergency scene . This is where a regular, stock alternator has a tendency to struggle. Heavy duty alternators solve this electrical load problem — but only part of the way. A heavy duty alternator typically also requires high RPM. This high-output, high-RPM duty cycle over time causes unnecessary wear and tear on the engine, the alternator, the battery, and causes unpleasant engine noise.
If you think about a regular passenger car that occasionally sits at idle, this doesn’t sound like a huge problem. Let’s take a look at how often a fire truck may sit in an idle state — often with lights on, radio transmissions going, and even water pumps being used, all of which requires electrical energy.
First of all, fire engines are called to many more emergency scenes than fires alone. Firefighters are often trained as EMS technicians to provide emergency medical services on the spot, for any type of an emergency. If you call 911, more likely than not, you will see a fire truck come to your aid, sometimes even before the ambulance arrives. According to the Anoka County, Minnesota fire department, a typical emergency call lasts an average on one hour, while a typical fire call lasts roughly three hours, and sometimes more.
While every fire department has many different emergencies and situations to respond to every year, let’s take that average time at an emergency scene and compare it to the experience in Danbury, CT. In 2013, the emergency services department there received 44,000 emergency 911 calls. While a fire truck did not respond to every one of those 44,000 calls, the Danbury Fire Department reports that 3,938 of those calls required fire and service responses, and 4,771 were other “first responder” type calls.
At the very least, one hour of engine idling multiplied by 8,709 calls requiring a fire engine to spend 8,709 hours at engine idle that year. This is the bare minimum — not even taking into account those three-plus hour calls. All of this makes the nature of the inner workings of the fire truck engine with the electrical system so very important.
So what can an Eco-Tech alternator do?
A sharp contrast to the heavy-duty, high output, high RPM alternator, Eco-Tech has designed an alternator that gets uniquely high output at low engine RPM. Low RPM does not equal low efficiency, however. An Eco-Tech alternator can satisfy an output of 260 Amperes at 1,800 RPM, while our competitors’ typically need to operate at a very noisy, fuel consuming 3,000 RPM. At idle, even top-rated heavy duty alternators only give an output of 85 to 90 Amperes at idle, roughly one-third of an Eco-Tech alternator’s electrical power output. The low RPM, high output capability of an Eco-Tech alternator saves wear and tear not only on the engine, but the alternator itself which also extending battery life.
The ability to avoid deep discharging of batteries extends battery life. Replacing a stock alternator with an Eco-Tech alternator also saves money due to eliminating the need for extra equipment on these fire trucks. For example, Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine recommends idle-reduction technology, such as Alternate Power Units (APU). These alternate units help reduce an electrical load, especially when a fire truck’s pump is engaged. However, swapping the old alternator out for an Eco-Tech replacement accomplishes the same outcome, without making the investment in unnecessary equipment.
Part of the reason that the APU is so popular is their decrease in the emission of toxic fumes into the environment. Another by-product of an engine that revs to high is simply a lot of pollution, not to mention the wasted fuel. An Eco-Tech high amp alternator is also better for the environment, reducing engine drag by up to 50 percent when it is used, reducing emissions problems and pollution. When an Eco-Tech alternator is used in simply a heavy duty truck, drivers experience roughly $1,000 a year in fuel savings.
The choice is clear — fire engines applications can develop substantial savings by making the switch to a more environmentally friendly, high output, low RPM alternator. When it comes down to the very nature of what we need fire trucks for — saving lives and responding to emergencies — it’s simply common sense to choose vehicle parts that not only extend the life of the engine, but prevent possible breakdowns and unneeded maintenance when a fire truck is needed the most. In the first year of operation, savings in fuel alone can cover the cost of an Eco-Tech alternator. Taking into consideration saving on engine wear and tear and possible battery replacement, Eco-Tech is the smarter and greener choice.