Two electric Kias have become the first zero-emission emergency response vehicles for the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS). The two e-Niro SUVs will be used to help first responder paramedics to reach patients before conventional ambulances, giving patients vital care as quickly as possible.

Both cars have been modified to suit their new roles, with full ambulance service liveries and adaptations that allow them to carry the equipment first responders require. Life-saving medicines, equipment and supplies have all been fitted to the compact SUVs.

The cars will take part in a trial, based at the SCAS’s Oxford City resource centre. Performance, cost and environmental benefits will all be measured, and should the vehicles pass muster, it’s expected that more electric response vehicles will be added to the fleet.

Kia e-Niro electric emergency response vehicles

It’s hoped that the vehicles, which come with an all-electric range of up to 282 miles between charges, will reduce the costs of running emergency response vehicles. With no internal combustion engine on board, the cars have fewer moving parts and do not need the same maintenance work. That means less waste is produced, and the SCAS estimates the vehicles will require less ‘down time’ than petrol or diesel equivalents. In all, the trust expects to see a 25 percent drop in overall maintenance costs compared with petrol or diesel response cars.

Kia e-Niro electric emergency response vehicles

Charles Porter, the director of finance at SCAS, said the organisation was already looking into ways of bringing electric power to full-size ambulances and patient transport vehicles.

“I am delighted that these first two fully electric, zero emission emergency response vehicles will shortly be introduced to our operational fleet,” he said. “I would like to thank everyone in the project team for their determination and commitment to delivering this significant step in our strategy to continually reduce our environmental impact.

“As an organisation, we operate over 1,300 vehicles to deliver our services so being able to move to fully electric vehicles will be vital in order to deliver our environmental goals. We are key partners in national projects to deliver zero emission emergency vehicle fleets and we are already exploring how we can bring electric vehicles into our emergency ambulance and patient transport service operations.”

Meanwhile, the trust’s vehicle commissioning unit manager, Gregory Edwards, said he relished the challenges of getting these high-tech cars ready for service.

“It was really exciting for my team and I to be given the opportunity to design the vehicles from the ground up, taking them from a standard electric road vehicle to an emergency response vehicle,” he said. “There was a number of challenges we had to overcome, including ensuring the additional electric systems needed in an emergency vehicle wouldn’t drain the battery, emergency light fittings, weight and space limitations, but we’re really pleased with the end result and our operational colleagues can’t wait to get behind the wheel and take them out to help our patients.”

Gallery: Kia e-Niro electric emergency response vehicles