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Why should Blue Light Fleets go Green?

When thinking about electrifying our blue light services, the vehicles that serve our emergency, critical and frontline services face particular operational and performance challenges, which fleet managers across Ambulance, Fire and Police forces are working hard to address.

emergency services


This blog explores the motivators driving emergency fleet electrification:  

  • Environment and sustainability commitments 
  • The inevitability of EVs and electric driving 
  • Value for money 


Environment and sustainability – what has the blue light sector committed to? 

The UK’s emergency services have ambitious sustainability goals and decarbonisation targets. The NHS has become the first health service in the world to commit to reaching net zero by 2040. The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) has published an ‘In Focus’ report on the work that PCCs are doing up and down the country on environment and sustainability. Similarly, the National Fire Chiefs Council has issued an ‘Environment Sustainability and Climate Change Toolkit’ setting out the various ways in which the fire service can embed sustainability considerations throughout its organisation.  

Other emergency services, such as British Transport Police and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), have also published their commitments to sustainability and eliminating or reducing their negative impacts on the environment. 

The adoption of greener technologies and fuels for their fleets is a recurring theme in the respective environmental and sustainability commitments from the emergency services.  Electrifying emergency fleets will play a major role in delivering on these targets. Targets and strategies to achieve them are meaningless without action, and the good news is that work is already underway to transition emergency service fleets.  

The inevitability of EVs and electric driving

EVs remain critical to the UK meeting plans to reduce carbon emissions by 77% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. Just like any other fleet, emergency service fleets will have to lower their emissions in line with net zero and sustainability targets.  

Progress is already being made. In 2022, eight ambulance trusts were involved in trialling 21 zero-emission vehicles of different types. There were over 430 EV police cars in operation at the end of last year. The London Fire Brigade has invested in developing the first electrified fire engine, and the RNLI has introduced an E-class inshore lifeboat. 

Electrifying emergency vehicles is a real challenge for fleet managers. As we outlined in a recent blog, these vehicles face radically different pressures from other heavy-duty fleets which tend to have more predictable journeys and workloads. Emergency vehicles have to respond at short notice to unpredictable circumstances. They are as likely to travel long distances in rural areas as negotiate city centres at speed. They have not been ideal candidates for early electrification and transitioning the UK’s entire emergency service fleet to 100% zero-emission may be a way off due to demanding operational requirements. The challenges are intense and the risk of getting it wrong is simply too high to contemplate for their emergency vehicles.  

That said, not all vehicles used by the emergency services are heavy-duty ambulance, fire and police vehicles. Their fleets typically include a range of vehicles, including pool cars and community engagement vehicles which can be switched to EVs. Several services have already begun to transition their fleets of non-emergency vehicles in a bid to get their infrastructure in place ready for the introduction of heavy-duty emergency EVs. 

Value for money

Electric vehicles cost less to run and maintain than ICE vehicles. There is less to go wrong – no fuel systems, cooling and exhaust systems, gearboxes, etc. So, they remain on the road, in serviceable use, for more time than a diesel or petrol equivalent

Powering the transition 

Underpinning all of the reasons for electrifying emergency fleets, is the key consideration of power. Emergency EVs need to be powered to ensure they can perform their vital functions. Emergency fleet managers may be aware of the challenges this presents, but it is fair to say that their main interest is in the vehicles rather than prioritising the charging infrastructure needed to get electricity in the right amounts, to the right vehicles, at the right time. 

Fortunately, help is at hand. At Mer, we have been actively helping several NHS trusts, police and fire services to lay the groundwork for their transition to EV fleets. Through our work with emergency service fleets, Mer’s experts understand the workload, regulations, planning, constraints and timescales involved. Several emergency service operators, including North East Ambulance Service, have chosen to work with Mer to prepare their charging infrastructure for an electric future. Hear from Martin Gibson, Sustainability Manager at North East Ambulance Service, about the Trust’s transition to EV. 

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