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Energy efficient while saving lives: Seattle launches hybrid ambulances

The Seattle Fire Department plans to add three more hybrid converters to gas-powered ambulances in the coming months. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - When firefighter paramedics Morlon Malveaux and Mark Pedeferri learned that their powerhorse diesel ambulance was going to be traded for a gas-powered hybrid they were more than a little concerned.

The two, who run a Medic One rig stationed at Harborview Medical Center, questioned power, performance and how the new ambulance would climb big hills.

But, after nearly nine months on the road with the new vehicle, neither have any complaints.

“It’s much quieter, I think the handling is a little better as well, but a much quieter rig for us on the inside of the cab,” Malveaux said.

The Seattle Fire Department’s vehicle change out is part of the city’s Drive Clean initiative, which calls for adding cleaner fuels and electric cars to the city’s entire fleet.

Lt. Harold Webb, fire department spokesman, said response times haven’t seen a change by adding hybrid converters to Malveaux and Pedeferri’s ambulance as well as another Medic One unit.

XL Hybrids, the company that is outfitting the Ford E-450 ambulance fleet, said in a news release that in the night months the department has seen “a 19 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

Webb said the department plans to add three more hybrid converters to gas-powered ambulances in the coming months.

The two ambulances don’t look any different than the others in the fleet. In fact, the only difference can be seen underneath the rig, firefighter paramedics said.

“You can feel the kick then when you break you can feel the motor, it’s a little different braking you can feel the motor braking,” Pedeferri said.

Across the city, the Drive Clean Initiative can be easily spotted –Seattle police detectives and other city employees drive Toyota Priuses.

“I think the worry more so was the power, especially with all the hills we have – Queen Anne- it was more of a concern of getting up the hills. But this thing gets up hills great,” Malveaux said.

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