The U.S. Navy has been roaring into the sustainable future with test flights for a biofuel-powered fighter jet, and now it’s going to the opposite end of the speed scale with a fleet of solar powered vehicles in the “Slow Moving Vehicles” category, meaning they have a top speed of 25 mph. The SMV’s, as they are affectionately known, are being deployed through the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast in Jacksonville, Florida.
The motivation for adopting solar-charged electric vehicles comes from a Navy directive to have a fleet of more than 2,500 SMV’s, as part of a goal of achieving a 50% cut in petroleum use by 2015 (based on 2009 usage). Since the Southeast Command has one of the largest fleets in the Navy, it needs an alternative source of energy to offset the additional demand on the electric grid from charging hundreds of electric vehicles.
Solar Powered Slow Moving Electric Vehicles for the Navy
Southeast has a fleet of 314 SMV’s, which includes sedans, pickups, vans, and maintenance vehicles. Only 23 are currently solar powered. The goal is to have 412 electric SMV’s by 2012, and 121 of those will be solar powered. Many of them will be situated at a submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia. Because the electric vehicles have zero emissions, they are handy for tasks that require driving in warehouses, hangars, and other indoor spaces where vehicle emissions would require extra costs due to ventilation requirements. According to the Navy, solar integration also brings down the cost of maintaining electric vehicles because it enhances battery life.
The U.S. Navy and Sustainability
Biofuel for fighter jets and solar power for electric vehicles are just two examples of the Navy’s foray into alternative fuels and new strategies for energy conservation. The Navy has been adopting new energy efficient desalination systems, testing a hybrid-electric assault ship and installing solar power. This year the Navy even installed its first green roof this year, at Naval Station Norfolk, which is expected to reduce energy use and serve as a micro-habitat. The Navy is also funding emerging technologies through the Office of Naval Research’s Clean Energy Challenge. What was that again about “drill baby, drill?”
Image: Slow moving turtle by audreyjm529 on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.