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It ain’t easy being cool

Pierce Manufacturing’s Volterra pumps titleholder of the “2022 Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin” contest

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November 3, 2022

APPLETON – Being called “cool” can be a pretty big deal.

Being named the coolest thing made in Wisconsin, is a recognition Eric Linsmeier, business unit director for electrical and software technology for Pierce Manufacturing, said the company accepts with humbled honor.

“Our goal is always to make sure we’re providing innovation, unmatched innovation really, and advancements to our end users and customers,” Linsmeier said. “So for peers to be able to be nominated and recognized for something we think is important, and is also recognized by others is always reassuring. It’s great to know you are focused on things that matter to other folks, not just things that you believe are right.”

Coolest Thing contest
For the past seven years, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), in partnership with Johnson Financial Group, have hosted the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest, which WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer said looks to highlight manufacturing as Wisconsin’s largest industry.

Bauer said the Badger State is home to roughly 9,000 manufacturing facilities, employs nearly one in six Wisconsin workers and contributes more than $68 billion to the economy.

“We’re immensely proud of Wisconsin’s manufacturers and the products they make right here in our state,” he said. “This industry is diverse – from commercial-grade equipment and vehicles to medical technology and food products. We have cool things made in Wisconsin.”

Each year, the WMC announces the winner of the contest in October during Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.
This year – which saw nearly 150 product nominations – the title went to Appleton’s Pierce Manufacturing for its electric fire truck – the Volterra pumper.

Linsmeier said Pierce – which was chosen as the winner through a popular vote round and three bracket-style rounds – was nominated for the contest by Fox Valley Technical College.

Bauer said the contest garnered more than 150,000 votes to determine the electric fire truck as the top product.

“Thank you to all of the hard-working men and women dedicated to Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry and to WMC for reminding us each year of all the coolest things made in Wisconsin,” Jim Popp, Johnson Financial Group president & CEO, said.

The Volterra pumper
According to Linsmeier, the Volterra pumper is the first zero-emissions electric fire truck in service in North America.

He said the technology consists of a patented, parallel-electric drive train featuring an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission, which allows zero-emissions operation when powered by the integrated onboard batteries, and can be coupled to the internal combustion engine to provide continuous and uninterrupted power to the pumping system or drive system.

In order to obtain real-life, daily use data on the truck, Linsmeier said Pierce Manufacturing is working with the City of Madison to place its concept vehicle in its busiest station.

“(We want to make) sure the technology we develop and introduce to the industry suits the use case of the customer and we don’t in fact, limit, inhibit or cause them to have to change the behavior in order to use this technology in their application,” he said.


Pierce Manufacturing’s electric fire truck is the first zero-emissions electric fire truck in service in North America. Submitted Photo

Linsmeier said the Pierce Volterra can run a full-shift operation without the need to recharge.

“Which is significant, because we can now use electric energy to do that work instead of what a traditional apparatus would use,” he said.

Linsmeier said the truck’s technology helps the Madison Fire Department to meet the city’s Climate Forward agenda to reduce local carbon emissions.

“By using electrical power, we are able to (help) municipalities and cities that are focused on reducing their carbon footprint and reducing the use of fossil fuels, like diesel fuel or gasoline,” he said. “We can help them meet their objectives and still do so by staying focused on how we make sure the firefighter can perform their duties and emergency response.”

Linsmeier said the vehicle’s battery system allows for flexibility in sizing so Pierce can customize the solution to meet various departments’ needs.

Linsmeier said it’s important for Pierce to integrate its technology into the platform, so end users have “operational transparency.”

“So they feel the same when they’re driving the EV apparatus versus the traditional apparatus,” he said. “Because it could be two in the morning or two in the afternoon that they climb into the vehicle, obviously, we don’t want to have them have to reconsider what they’re driving to perform their duty. Our goal is to continue to stay focused on that. This will stay unchanged. We’re going to continue to stay focused on it.”

The recognition’s importance
Linsmeier said being selected as this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin is impactful not just for Pierce Manufacturing, but for its employees, the region and the overall electric vehicle (EV) industry.

“It’s really great, I think anyway, that Pierce continues to be committed to leading and not following in the space and EV solutions as we work to support our customers,” he said. “Something we think is important is also recognized by others is always reassuring and great to hear.”

The recognition, Linsmeier said, highlights the hard work Pierce Manufacturing employees have done.

“There are a lot of folks that work hard on these things and are committed to it every day,” he said. “It takes a team of people, a large diverse team that all pull in the same direction and make things go well and to be successful. And they all feel good when they see others recognize their hard work. We’re a pretty humble company. We’re super honored people think of our products this way.”

Linsmeier said Pierce is, and will continue, moving its electrification strategy forward.

“We hope to continue to work with the City of Madison, but that’s up to them, I suppose,” he said. “But yeah, absolutely – we’re going to continue the strong partnership we have there.”

Linsmeier said Pierce has also recently announced a partnership with the City of Portland, Oregon, and Gilbert, Arizona – which will help gather impactful data on environmental and geographic differences that influence the ability to truck.


Eric Linsmeier is the business unit director for electrical and software technology for Pierce Manufacturing. Submitted Photo

“We’ll stress the vehicle in its technology assertion in another way, which is important because as we bring these products to the broad market, we need to ensure, of course, confidence of those that are buying them that… the product is ready.”

Innovative state
Linsmeier said Pierce is just a part of a long list of “really cool things made in Wisconsin.”

“I think it’s great to be able to highlight the State of Wisconsin – (a) state that provides innovative solutions and designs and is capable of manufacturing those as well,” he said.

Linsmeier said the contest gives folks an opportunity to notice all of the great things made in the state.

“Everybody goes about their day doing things they normally do, and sometimes there are things happening in their community or within their state they may not be aware of…,” he said. “So, things like this are good to raise awareness of some of the great things going on in the state and maybe in their community. We’re capable of great things.”

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