New Mexico Governor Grisham's 'zero emission' fire engine has diesel motor

“This new electric fire engine shows the versatility of zero-emission vehicles”, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Yet again, New Mexico is leading the way in practical, effective climate action.

Published: May 15, 2024 5:47pm

Updated: May 15, 2024 5:50pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) - The New Mexico Environment Department provided Bernalillo County Fire & Rescue with $417,718 worth of taxpayer funding to help pay for $1,829,973 in project costs to replace a 1991 Engine Model Year diesel-fueled Class 8, Pierce Dash fire engine.

BCFR will replace the old diesel fire engine with a Pierce Volterra battery electric fire engine. The new engine produces zero tailpipe emissions, according to publicity materials produced by the environment department.

“This new electric fire engine shows the versatility of zero-emission vehicles”, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Yet again, New Mexico is leading the way in practical, effective climate action."

Neither Grisham nor the environment department mentioned that the "zero emissions" fire engine comes equipped with a diesel engine for times when the batteries give out, or as the marketing copy puts it, "Internal combustion engine engagement is automated with seamless transition after batteries have been depleted." That is most likely when the engine is used for its designed purpose of spraying large amounts of water on a fire. When the diesel engine is running the emissions are more than zero.

An engineer for the company said he could not answer questions like how much diesel fuel the "zero emissions" vehicle carries, how many horsepower the diesel engine has or whether it has pollution controls for the diesel exhaust. Governor Grisham's office did not respond to emails about the diesel engine.

The fire engine the state is replacing is a backup. It normally gets used when a primary engine is being repaired, or additional response capacity is necessary.

The new "electric" fire engine will be stationed at BCFR’s newest firehouse at 6810 Edith Blvd. NE, in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

This station will be the County’s first fully electric building powered with Solar energy. It will be operational by late 2024 or early 2025.

Parts of Bernalillo County, including the North Valley, suffer from high concentrations of diesel and fine particulate matter pollution, known as PM2.5.

Shifting to electric equipment will eliminate all of the emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and PM2.5 associated with diesel fuel combustion, except when the diesel engine is running when it will produce NOX and PM 2.5 just like the engine it replaces.

"NOX contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, and both ozone and PM2.5 contribute to the formation of smog," the release said. "Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly," the release added without noting that the new electric fire engine has a diesel power plant.

Replacing engine No. 0941 with a new "fully electric truck" will be about the equivalent of removing 37 gasoline-powered passenger cars from the road each year except when the engine is running.

“We look forward to bringing one of the first all-electric fire engines into our department as well as our state," Deputy County Manager and Fire Chief Greg Perez said in the release. "Our main goal is to purchase an engine that allows us to perform as efficiently and safely as we do today while also being mindful of our role in protecting our environment.”

“This new, zero-emission fire truck means better air quality for firefighters and the community they serve," Environment Department Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sydney Lienemann said in the release. “With more types of electric vehicles on the market, NMED is proud to see more and more organizations making the transition."

The U.S. Congress passed DERA as an amendment to the Energy Policy Act in 2015.

"DERA was designed to reduce diesel emissions from existing diesel fleets that did not meet the federal emission standards at that time," the release said.

The EPA oversees and distributes DERA funds.

The EPA has provided funding to NMED. NMED serves as a pass-through agency offering sub-grant funding through its New Mexico Clean Diesel Program; the program provides funding to reduce heavy-duty diesel emissions.

The state's Air Quality Bureau has awarded over $2.3 million in grant funding for qualifying diesel emissions reduction projects since 2008, including this project.

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