Demers Ambulances will unveil the first 100% electric ambulance in North America within three weeks. Developed with Lion Electric, this emergency vehicle will allow the Beloeil company to gradually free itself from the chassis of major American manufacturers.
It is in its facilities on the South Shore in the Montreal region that the company will unveil a 100% electric ambulance prototype on October 18, in the company of the Ministers of the Economy and of Health, Pierre Fitzgibbon and Christian Dubé.
Demers Ambulances has been working on the design of this vehicle since 2018 with Lion Electric, which developed the chassis and took care of the electrification component. Demers Ambulances has for its part redesigned the passenger compartment. “It was initially a question of adapting a minibus to make an ambulance,” says the CEO of Demers Ambulances, Alain Brunelle. However, it was a model that specifically responded to the characteristics of emergency vehicles that was ultimately favored.
The company will therefore be able to gradually free itself from American commercial vans to which it has incorporated medical equipment for ten generations of ambulances. A new step for a company which, almost 60 years ago, embarked on the adventure by modifying hearses.
This shift to electric led to the reconfiguration of the medical compartment. The ambulance workspace, in particular, has been revisited. “We sat down with the paramedics, telling them: ‘If we start from a blank page, where the paramedics should be seated and where the stretcher should be?’” Says Alain Brunelle. As a result, these healthcare professionals will now be able to wear a seat belt even during emergency maneuvers, which is not currently the case.
Available from next year
The first electric vehicles from Demers Ambulances will be delivered to Canada and the United States next year. The company, present in 43 countries, then intends to sell this model on the international market.
However, marketing will have to keep pace with the development of charging station networks. “The problem will not arise in the barracks, but we will have to have discussions [avec le gouvernement du Québec, par exemple,] so that ambulances can be recharged during the day in waiting places and in hospital parking lots. For the moment, there are no limits. “
Another consideration: the standards that govern emergency vehicles in American states. “In some places, the standards strictly refer to vehicles that run on diesel, for example,” he says.
More expensive to buy, the electric ambulance would be more profitable over the years, assures Mr. Brunelle. “Its useful life will be longer and its maintenance costs will be lower. We tell our customers that in the end, it will cost them as much or less than buying two traditional ambulances. “
Demers Ambulances intends to rely on its significant market shares in North America, which are around 30%, in its marketing operation. The company has stepped up acquisitions in recent years, acquiring Braun Ambulances and Crestline in 2018, as well as Medix Specialty Vehicles in April. Its turnover today oscillates around 350 million dollars.
The main competitor of Demers Ambulances in North America, REV Group, announced in April the development of an electric ambulance in partnership with Lightning eMotors. This vehicle – an adaptation of a Ford Transit internal combustion van – will be intended primarily for transporting patients between hospitals.