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Boulder Fire-Rescue purchases its first electric fire engine

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Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-24 18:26:16-04

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder Fire-Rescue has purchased an electric fire engine, the first of its kind in Colorado, with a promise of increased occupational safety for firefighters.

On Monday morning, the City of Boulder said its fire department bought a Rosenbauer RTX fire engine, which is expected to be delivered in late 2024 or early 2025. The estimated cost is $1.78 million.

The RTX is a Range Extended Electric Vehicle, which means it has an all-electric drivetrain and pump with a diesel energy backup system, the city said. This allows firefighters to go up against a blaze while safeguarding air quality and reducing emissions. The vehicle features improvements such as an adjustable suspension that offers lower equipment and cab access heights, all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, an ergonomically designed cab space, reduced exposure to carcinogenic fumes, and a reduction in operational noise, the city said.

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It can carry 500 to 750 gallons of water in its tank. Its two Volvo Penta Batteries total about 132 kWh of power, according to Rosenbauer's website.

"The purchase also represents a broader movement to go electric that goes beyond personal vehicles to include larger, more powerful machines, including emergency vehicles that must be reliable and able to perform under challenging conditions," the city said.

Travis Richen, administrative battalion chief with Boulder Fire-Rescue, said the department heavily researched the engine and developed a plan for it before the purchase.

"We’ve ensured that the equipment will be dependable and capable while also developing a better understanding about all the safety benefits the engine offers," he said. "This purchase gives us an amazing chance to shape the next generation of fire apparatus."

City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde called it another example of Boulder's leadership in addressing climate change.

"We’re proud to be an early adopter of new technology that makes emergency response both safer and environmentally friendly," Rivera-Vandermyde said. "The collaboration among departments — Fire-Rescue, Fleet & Facilities, and Climate Initiatives — has been exceptional and is an example of how we can address today’s challenges when we work together."

The nearly $2 million for the engine was saved up over time from the Boulder Fire-Rescue's budget to replace the fleet's vehicles as needed. Nearly its entire budget comes from the city's general fund.

Background on EV growth in Colorado, plus what's next

Electric vehicles have been on the rise across Colorado for years. The state has a goal of 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

In August 2018, the U.S. Federal Transit Agency announced its 2018 Low- and No-Emission bus grants. The FTA awarded a total of $84.4 million to 52 different agencies around the country, including Colorado. The local grant recipients included Eagle County Transportation Authority, the "Electric Breck” plan in Breckenridge, Summit County, and Estes Park.

Later that year, to accommodate for the increasing numbers of electric vehicles, Gov. Jared Polis announced that a $10.33 million grant had been awarded to a company to build 33 electric vehicle stations around the state. This construction was funded by a settlement with Volkswagen after the company was caught selling vehicles with emission-cheating software.

'The United States has to invest': Colorado electric vehicle stakeholders anticipate future funding

In January 2019, Gov. Polis took several steps to promote the use of electric and zero-emission vehicles, including the introduction of a goal to achieve 100% electricity generation from renewable sources by 2040. That May, he unveiled the Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040 and Bold Climate Action

An updated Colorado Vehicle Plan was released in April 2020, which included more details on plans to electrify the vehicles on the roads.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, about 37,000 electric vehicles were registered in Colorado, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The state currently has 1,736 electric charging stations, most of which are clustered around the Front Range.

State officials are working to increase that number. In March 2021, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced it would help bring charging infrastructure to every state park through a partnership with Rivian, an American electric-vehicle manufacturer based in Michigan.

“It shouldn’t be difficult for Coloradans to drive an EV to their favorite public lands,” Hannah Collazo, state director of Environment Colorado, said in 2021. “We need to make getting to our parks in an EV easier so outdoors-loving Coloradans do not forgo switching to EVs at all. We must electrify the way we travel to prevent pollution and a warming climate — and to protect the lands we cherish.”

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Trading an old clunker for an electric vehicle may soon be a reality for low to moderate-income Coloradans, thanks to the Vehicle Exchange Colorado (VXC) Program the state plans to launch this summer.

New program aims to make electric vehicles more accessible for low, moderate-income Coloradans

The program is an extension of a robust transportation funding package signed into law in 2021. Colorado Senate Bill 21-260 aims to clean up transportation, which is currently Colorado's largest source of greenhouse gas pollution.