US Military Will Get Thousands More EVs As SPIDERS Web Grows

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We were pretty impressed when the Department of Defense launched a $20 million leasing program for alternative fuel vehicles earlier this year, but that only involved a mere 500 vehicles. Our friends over at Navigant Research are predicting that DoD will obtain 92,000 more by 2020, with most of them being hybrid or plug-in EVs.

As for what that has to do with spiders, the $30 million SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security) system is an ambitious new microgrid project that DoD has been tinkering around with to great effect. Add renewable energy and the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) energy storage capacity of an EV fleet to the SPIDERS equation, and you get the kind of flexibility and resiliency — to say nothing of the cost savings — that petroleum fuel just can’t offer.

More EVs for US military and SPIDERS microgrids.
Spider (cropped) by James Fairbrother.

DoD Likes To Lease EVs, For Now

US military electric vehicles were a rarity just a few years ago, but that’s certainly not going to be the case moving forward if you take a look at why DoD decided to lease the 500 vehicles rather than buy them outright.

A number of factors come into play on that decision including the fast pace of EV improvements, especially in increasing battery range while lowering battery cost.

The typical DoD non-tactical vehicle can last about a dozen years, while a lease term would last three or less. So by leasing, DoD can roll over its EV fleet to take advantage of the latest technology as quickly as possible while minimizing administrative expenses and other replacement costs.

The advantages of transitioning the military’s non-tactical fleet to EVs cannot be overstated. In addition to the potential bottom line savings and insulation from global oil market price shocks, the ability of EVs to draw from clean, hyperlocal, renewable energy sources translates into more secure facilities, reduced environmental and health hazards, and above all, a lower risk of harm related to petroleum fuel convoys.

That’s over and above the billions in costs associated with protecting US interests in the global oil market…but we digress.

Military Spending Big Bucks On EVs, And SPIDERS

As with the 500-vehicle program, Navigant is predicting that the push for EVs will focus on DoD’s non-tactical fleet and on V2G systems. Here’s the money quote:

Navigant Research forecasts that military spending on ADVs for the non-tactical fleet will increase from over $435 million in 2013 to $926 million by 2020. A majority of the growth will be made through spending on HEVs and PEVs.

Navigant is right on the money, if you take a look at the progress that DoD has made on V2G in just the past few years. Los Angeles Air Force Base, which is among six facilities to split the aforementioned 500 vehicles, is already hosting a V2G pilot project and has committed to transitioning 100 percent of its non-tactical fleet to EVs with the help of solar power.

Meanwhile, our friends over at the DOD Energy Blog have tipped us that the company responsible for integrating SPIDERS, Burns & McDonnell, has come up with a white paper that does a great job of explaining how microgrids work and why they represent a vast improvement over systems reliant on diesel generators. Check it out.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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