Two electric vehicles among the ‘Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin’ finalists for 2022 | WUWM 89.7 FM
Two of the four finalists in this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin competition, organized by a group of state enterprises, are electric vehicles.
These are not cars you can find at a dealership. Instead, these EVS are designed for two very different markets – the very serious world of firefighting and what you might call the fun market.
During a recent WUWM visit to the Columbia Vehicle Group plant in Reedsburg, a worker named Amber installed the Tomberlin E-Merge Beachcomber’s safety glass windshield. It’s a four-wheeled vehicle that looks a bit like a golf cart, only better. It’s taller and longer, with headlights, grille, soundbar, automotive-grade paint and seating for six.
Business Development Manager Greg Breckley pointed to the battery system under the rear seat.
“So it’s a 210 amp-hour lithium pack, which gives it around 100 hours of battery life, depending on terrain and operation. It’s our own custom-made lithium pack that’s made just for us. We charge it with a standard 110-volt outlet,” says Breckley.
Breckley says there’s enough juice to power the Beachcomber at lower speeds along ocean and lake beaches, and on low-traffic streets in places like resorts and retirement communities. .
A few blocks from the Columbia office, Breckley is arguing that the Beachcomber is the coolest thing made in Wisconsin this year.
“It gives you the ability to have a lot of fun in a tight little package. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get into the RV space. But it doesn’t sacrifice anything on the fun side. It’s has all day. So the party goes wherever that vehicle is,” he says.
Breckley says the E-Merge Beachcomber and other battery-powered industrial vehicles made by the company are suitable for the growing electric micro-mobility market.
“Whether it’s how your food gets delivered to you these days, or how you get to work, or how you get from public transit to your destination, there’s this big problem of the last mile in many communities across the United States.. It’s a problem that Columbia thinks it can help solve,” Breckley says.
The competition’s other EV finalist also promises a look into the future.
The product is the Volterra Pumper, an electric fire truck made by Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton. About seventeen months ago, Pierce, a longtime fire truck manufacturer now part of the Oshkosh Company, donated a Volterra to the Madison Fire Department. Madison Deputy Fire Chief Scott Bavery said the electric vehicle received about 1,300 EMS and fire department calls. He says it’s cool because in the first twelve months alone the Volterra has saved a lot on fuel costs and carbon dioxide emissions.
“I think it was like $13,000 worth of diesel fuel, which may seem like a lot or a little to some because the cost of the engine is higher. ‘save over 50,000 pounds of CO2 to the environment.’” Bavery says.
Bavery acknowledges that in the world of firefighting, where reliability and safety are essential, Pierce accepted a request from the department to install a standby diesel engine in the Volterra. But Bavery says the battery system didn’t fail.
“There are definitely days when we can get it down to 65% or 50% because we’re making a lot of calls. But usually after a run it drops to maybe 70-80%. In 15 minutes it’s back on top. and ready to run. go,” says Bavery.
That’s thanks to a super-fast charging unit donated by a utility, Madison Gas and Electric.
Pierce also sent a Volterra Pumper to Portland, Oregon, this year, and announced a third test city of Gilbert, Arizona on Tuesday.
The other two finalists in this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest are a real-time test for COVID-19 or the flu, made by Plexus Corporation of Neenah, and a massive harvest cart made by H&S Manufacturing of Marshfield. .
Online voting in the contest continues until noon Wednesday, when a winner will be announced at a luncheon in Madison.