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Smaller, lighter, faster? Reducing the carbon footprint of ambulances

02 March 2018
Volume 10 · Issue 3


This paper outlines a feasibility project investigating the potential for smaller, lighter rapid response vehicles (RRVs) in reducing the carbon footprint and response times of ambulances. Five stakeholder consultations were held with two ambulance trusts, an ambulance manufacturer, a paramedic and the Ultra-Light Vehicle Group to generate three novel design concepts for RRVs, which were then reviewed by four UK fleet managers and four clinicians. The results indicated that the integrated clinician service model could create a future market for smaller, lighter vehicles. Reducing carbon emissions in the short term will most likely be achieved using lower emission engines and improving engine and power management for dual-crewed ambulances. In the medium term (5–10 years), there will be a demand for low emission, composite light-weight dual-crewed ambulances.

In order to meet the requirements for safer manual handling, with equipment such as tail lifts and ramps, dual-crewed ambulances (DCAs) are typically increasing in weight. This has resulted in reduced fuel economy, higher running costs and poorer driving characteristics. Additionally, the NHS has identified the need for a more integrated clinical model (Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 2011) providing more ‘see and treat’ services instead of transporting patients to emergency departments (EDs). These two factors suggest that both evolved and entirely new types of emergency vehicles will be needed to meet future requirements of ambulance services.

This pilot project aimed to investigate the potential of smaller, lighter, rapid response vehicles (RRVs) in order to:

The NHS accounts for 5% of all road traffic in England, with staff, patients and visitors travelling over 20 billion kilometres annually by car (GrEAN, 2011). The Climate Change Act [2008] has committed the government to low carbon transport and ambulance fleets have already considered low carbon solutions including an Eco Driving initiative, estimated to save £1.5 million per annum (GrEAN, 2011). Prior research at Loughborough University considered the role of electric vehicles and highlighted the potential of solo response vehicles to reduce carbon emissions (Hignett et al, 2012a).

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