The zero-emission Demers eFX Ambulance will be completely manufactured in Quebec and be in service by fall 2022
Lion Electric and Demers Ambulance are showcasing their purpose-built, all-electric eFX ambulance, after a five year collaboration to bring the vehicle to production.
The two Quebec-based companies joined forces in 2016 when Demers wanted to reinvent emergency transportation and design an ambulance to run on battery electricity and approached the OEM. The project garnered financial support from the provincial government and the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program.
“This is a great day for Demers Ambulances!,” said Alain Brunelle, CEO of Demers Ambulances in a press release. “I would like to salute the leadership and genius of the Lion team and thank the Government of Quebec and NRC IRAP for their support from day one of this ambitious project.”
Designing the emergency vehicle of the future
When Lion and Demers came together to reimagine what an ambulance could offer patients and paramedics, they quickly realized that not only was it possible to alter nearly every aspect of the vehicle from the chassis to the medical compartment, but that in order to make a vehicle that was truly industry changing they would need to consult the people using it.
“When we develop a product, we always take the time to sit down with the end-user,” says Patrick Gervais, Lion Electric’s VP, marketing and communications in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada. “We had paramedics that came and told us about what were their biggest concerns when driving an ambulance.”
Lion Electric and Demers took notes and went to the drawing boards to design a vehicle that addressed the concerns of paramedics and built an ambulance with more space for freedom of movement and storage and ensured paramedic and patient comfortability and safety.
“One thing Demers did was create an amazing seat, so it allows the paramedic to stay seated on the seat with a four-point seatbelt to maneuver all over the ambulance without standing up and crossing over the patient. It’s a mini-hospital safe on wheels. It’s quite amazing,” says Gervais.
The assembly process for the ambulances will be divvied up between both companies, meaning the electric ambulances will be made entirely in Quebec.
Lion Electric will build the custom chassis for the vehicles at its assembly plant in Saint-Jérôme. The company is also setting up a battery pack plant in Mirabel, expected to open by late 2022. Lion’s Eclipse battery packs will be incorporated into the eFX vehicles—marking the first integration of its own battery manufacturing process into its vehicles, says Gervais.
The batteries will have a capacity of 130 to 195 kWh and the ambulances will have a range of 200 km on a single charge.
Demers Ambulance will be making the reconfigured medical compartment to suit the needs of paramedics and complete the final vehicle assembly at its Beloeil, Que. facility.
1,500 ambulances in five years
The ambulances are scheduled to be commercialized by the second half of 2022, with a price tag of $500,000 per vehicle.
Gervais explains that while ambulances equipped with a diesel engine will be cheaper, their life expectancy is typically only five years because they are built on cutaway van chassis that are not made for extensive usage. The eFX will be built to last for at least 10 years and Lion is already suggesting the chassis could be used in other applications as well, though it hasn’t specified how.
The two companies are aiming to deploy at least 1,500 ambulances across North America before 2026 and hope to market globally as well.
“We’ll have to see about the volume, but we are ready to export. Obviously, the ambulances are going to be in use in Canada before they’re going to go out to North America and after that, maybe, the world,” says Gervais.
Already, Demers products are present in about 43 countries around the world, therefore, there is “humongous potential” to market outside of Canada, while they will be built in Canada, says Gervais.
It’s a goal echoed by Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of the economy, in the announcement release as well, “The realization of this 100% electric ambulance highlights Quebec’s expertise in the design of electric vehicles and its leadership in the electrification of transportation. This fine example of industrial collaboration…will certainly be a success on a North American and even international scale.”