Among the many (many, many) sustainable energy programs recently launched by the U.S. military, the Defense Department’s new military electric-vehicles-to-grid initiative is especially worth noting. With the announcement of a $20 million, 500-vehicle leasing program soon to get underway, in one fell swoop it’s going to accelerate several major trends that have been slowly leaking into the civilian mainstream.
That includes the marriage of zero emission electric vehicles with the potential for zero-emission recharging from solar panels or other renewable sources, smart grid technology with off-peak power maximization, and the flexibility of local energy storage to help secure facilities (or individual buildings) against brownouts and more serious grid disruptions.
500 More Electric Vehicles for the U.S. Military
The new lease program, which is expected to get underway later this year, will cover a variety of off-the-shelf vehicles ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 in the commercial market.
The 500 vehicles will be split among six installations, with Los Angeles Air Force Base taking the lead.
If that name rings a bell, you may recall that a little over a year ago LA AFB announced that it would become the first federal government facility ever to replace 100 percent of its fleet (its non-tactical fleet, that is) with electric vehicles. The new lease program is based partly on lessons learned from that program, which covered non-emergency sedans and buses as well as light trucks.
Coincidentally, LA AFB is also an early solar energy leader, and its all-EV initiative includes solar charging as well as a demonstration ground for EV-to-grid systems. Basically, the electric vehicles serve as mobile energy storage units. They can be charged at off-peak hours to take advantage of lower electricity rates and/or any available renewable energy, and when integrated with a smart microgrid they be called into play to help alleviate stress on the local grid during periods of peak use.
Many Benefits from Military’s Transition to Electric Vehicles
As described by Camron Gorguinpour, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, the prospect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at military facilities is side benefit to the main attractions of switching to EV’s: saving money on fleet expenses, meeting energy efficiency goals
For those of you wondering why leasing is the preferred option, the typical lifespan of a non-tactical military vehicle is far longer than the current pace of innovation in EV technology. By leasing, the Defense Department can roll over its EV fleet more quickly to take advantage of new models.
As for the 500 vehicles, that’s just a drop in the bucket of DoD’s fleet of non-tactical ground vehicles, which last time we looked numbered about 190,000. Just imagine what kind of market demand is going to kick in if and when this initial program proves its worth and DoD ramps up the pace of its EV transition.
The Coming EV-to-Grid Revolution
Meanwhile, back in the civilian sector, a mirror trend has been taking place in which consumers are finding themselves at the cusp of a transition from vehicles that you just fill up and drive, to vehicles that partner with you to achieve the most efficient, lowest-cost, lowest-emission energy consumption patterns across the spectrum of your needs, from mobility to household use.
We’ve already seen a steady growth in the integration of EV manufacturers, charging station manufacturers and rooftop solar companies, and now auto manufacturers are taking it to the next level.
Ford seems to be first out of the box with its MyEnergi Lifestyle EV package, which encourages EV owners to think of a car as the biggest electrical appliance they will ever own, one that can store renewable energy, take advantage of off-peak pricing to lower costs, and interact with other household appliances through a cloud-based mini-grid.
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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+.