For many years, BMW cars and motorcycles have been a mainstay of emergency vehicle fleets around the world. Offering high-power engines designed to operate on German autobahns at high speeds for extended periods of time, there are few BMW sedans, SUVs and motorcycles which haven’t been used in some police force, fire or ambulance service at some point.
Given that high-speed pursuit and emergency response vehicles need to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice, you might think that BMW’s i3 electric car, with an EPA-approved range of 81 miles per charge, might not be ideal as an emergency vehicle. But, says the German automaker, an increasing number of emergency vehicle fleets around the world now count the BMW i3 electric car as part of their fleet.
While the BMW i3 might not be the best vehicle to choose for a high-speed chase on the open freeway, it turns out that the compact plug-in is ideal for use in urban fleets, where its low operating costs and powerful 125 kilowatt electric motor can get emergency professionals where they need to go with minimal fuss.
So far, says BMW, authorities in Bavaria, Milan, Los Angeles and London have added to the BMW i3 to their emergency vehicle fleet.
The reasons? Some of it relies on BMW’s existing reputation as a supplier of ex-works emergency vehicles. Using its existed expertise in the area, BMW’s engineering team have designed a set of different add-on features that can be specified on official emergency response vehicles. These include roof bars with flashing lights, pressure-chamber loudspeakers for sirens and wiring for digital communications equipment.
Additionally, BMW says, it has developed its own ConnectedRescue telematics system. Based on the BMW ConnectedDrive system found in civilian BMW i3 cars, ConnectedRescue allows emergency response professionals to receive all pertinent information regarding an emergency call and display it on the car’s built-in touch-screen display. Tying in with existing emergency infrastructure being used by the fleet operator, it can even be configured to pre-program the satellite navigation system remotely, allowing the emergency personnel to concentrate on responding to the call safely and quickly.
Another reason BMW says customers have chosen the i3 to join emergency response fleets lies in the vehicle’s exceptional handling and all-round good visibility. While the BMW i3 is a compact car, the driver sits high up, offering a clear view of the road ahead usually only possible with a crossover SUV. Meanwhile, the 0-62 mph time of 7.2 seconds ensures the BMW i3 can out-accelerate most cars in an urban environment.
Then there’s fuel economy. Thanks to its lightweight Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) structure, and narrow, low-rolling resistance tires, the BMW i3 is the most energy efficient electric car on the market today, using 27 kilowatt-hours of electricity per 100 miles travelled. In an average emergency vehicle fleet, where monthly fuel bills are measured in tens of thousands of pounds or dollars a month, replacing outgoing vehicles with an all-electric i3 can represent massive fuel savings.
As for range? In an urban situation, most patrol cars won’t need to travel more than 80 miles or so in a regular shift, meaning that the i3’s battery pack should last a standard shift without problems. When it’s time to switch personnel, DC quick charge technology means it’s possible to replenish the battery pack in 30 minutes to 80 percent using a high-powered, 50 kilowatt DC quick charging station, or around 45 minutes using a 25 kilowatt quick charge station.
Interestingly, it isn’t just police, fire and rescue services who are using the BMW i3 as a fleet vehicle. BMW says its emergency vehicle department has even built a high-tech BMW i3 Security car to allow the Polish Idea Bank in Warsaw to offer businesses in Warsaw a zero-emission service to pick up shop’s takings at the end of the day and drive it to the bank for deposit.
While this particular vehicle may not have the emergency lights and sirens found in police or fire vehicles, it does have a security deposit window built in to the rear door curbside as well as reinforced body panels and build-in safe, allowing business customers to safely deposit their takings from outside their shop without fear of being mugged.
Have you seen a BMW i3 in use as an emergency vehicle? Perhaps you’ve seen another plug-in car used instead? Tell us about them in the Comments below.
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