Electric Vehicles Military could buy thousands more EVs.

Published on November 2nd, 2013 | by Tina Casey


US Military Will Get Thousands More EVs As SPIDERS Web Grows

November 2nd, 2013 by  

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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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Dis

    First off I won’t debate with closed minds. I asked for the rate of charge required fir a specific powered vehicle with a specific range. I did not say nor does it matter regarding the charge capabilities the discharge rate unless we are discussing batteries. You addressed a motorcycle, I used that to show how pathetic the idea was. Hummers were replaced with MRAPs, far heavier for good reasons. A conventional gasoline or diesel vehicle can be refueled in less than 5 mins. Address that please. Where would the electricity come from in a war zone? You read a recent article about fuel costs in a corrupt country 400-500 a gallon. That is not the norm however were it so I’m quite sure the cost to replace trained Dead soldiers because they had no mobility far out weighs that argument. Yes the shake up of the manufacturing environment is good but now China leads the sector, not so good. Bob, I worked on the Volt and and at Green Tech Automotive. You are preaching to the choir. Fact is there is no business case for EVs unless oil is artificially inflated as Greens want to do for ideological reasons. EVs in the military do not belong in prime time. Get the technology right and then I will agree with you.

    • A Real Libertarian

      “First off I won’t debate with closed minds”

      Most of the time “closed minds” means “people who don’t agree with me”.

  • Dis

    Interesting how consumers have rejected EVs as economically unsound even with government subsidies covering $7000 in costs. The entities who reject facts about global warming in favor of ideology are pushing the military into a higher rung on the ladder. The fact is electricity in large measure is the end product of consuming dirty fuels such as coal, diesel, natural gas, nuclear and gasoline. Just two sources of energy can be used more directly, wind and solar. With millions pouring into these two technologies it is natural there segments show growth but that is a result of defunding and over regulating cheaper energy. Electricity is end product of refining, the top rung of the energy ladder.

    In WW2 Germany no slouch in technology had its military focus on producing energy from less refined means. An effort to preserving mobility. The American Goverment has ordered the US military to step up to EVs. How will the military remain mobile when electricity runs out? Build huge windmill and solar farms in a war zone? Lay down electrical lines susceptible to sabotage? I can imagine the US military successfully liberating oil refineries, gas fields and then running out of electricity. They won’t be able to move generators to the true source of electricity because their EVs are dead. All that feel good doesn’t make sense for war planners or winning wars but it makes good Green news.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, there’s a problem with your comment from the get-go. EV sales are growing. And at a rate higher than hybrid penetration when they were first introduced.

      The military is starting to use solar to power vehicles. They also have a very large biofuel program underway.

      The war planners are way out in front of you. They have long recognized that relying on oil puts us in danger and they are devising alternatives. Alternatives while increase our security while lower costs and saving lives.

    • Doug

      The concept of “liberating” oil fields and refineries only works in video games. In real life, war destroys everything – it took Kuwait 2-3 years to restore oil production after the country was “liberated”.

      Gasoline and deisel convoys are a huge tactical (and many times a strategic) problem – and have been since World War 2. Putting plug-in hybrids on the battlefield can significantly reduce consumption and increase flexibility.

      Most land transportation use occurs well behind the front lines in relatively unprotected vehicles. If a soldier has mortors falling nearby, it doesn’t really matter what kind of vehicle they are reliant on.

  • Steeple

    Seems like this should work well on stateside bases, particularly given their large land footprints.

    As for combat regions, how do you protect an array of solar cells large enough to do the job in a combat environment? If all any enemy has to do is lob mortars at your energy source, seems like a major vulnerability. Fuel convoys are especially vulnerable as we have seen, so it would be good to solve that problem. Just not sure if this can do it.

    • JamesWimberley

      Solar panels are distributed and modular, so you get less vulnerability and more flexibility in exchange for the extra area. Think of the Wehrmacht’s jerry-can, which though quite small allowed fuel to get to tanks in the front-line any number of ways, at a pinch being carried by infantry by hand. The Pentagon is one of the few customers for very expensive, very high efficiency solar cells, so they are aware of the space issue. Flexible thin-film will soon allow you to cover everything you have with panels – vehicles, clothing, tents and awnings, buildings.

      • Dis

        Will soon? Where have I heard that before… Just prior to all those battery and solar panels going bankrupt because somebody sold them of “soon” before it was prime time. Using nominal manufacturing technology i.e. viable, tell us how many square feet, not inches of solar panels are required in conjunction with Rate of charge to fully charge a stripped down motorcycle rated at 200 hp for a range of say 300 miles? Now estimate that for an MRAP. Yes the military is moving into EVs because they are being ordered to by their civilian leaders. The cost to operate these new vehicles is many times the multiple of current technology. In an era where politics wants to cut military spending for domestic consumption, how can costs for operations jump in multiples? Classic case of candy store mentality, unforeseen consequences that in this case are deadly. Just like ACA proved, you really cannot get something for nothing. But hey, the truth doesn’t matter these days.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You don’t understand what we recently went through with solar panel manufacturing, do you?

          As with just about every other industry the point is reached where the least efficient manufacturers are forced out of business as the most efficient manufacturers manage to decrease prices.

          This is a good thing. This means that solar panel manufacturing has moved from a high margin industry to a low margin industry in which manufacturers will make their profits off higher volume production.

          “tell us who many square feet, not inches of solar panels are required in conjunction with Rate of charge to fully charge a stripped down motorcycle rated at 200 hp for a range of say 300 miles?”

          I don’t know how much gasoline it takes to drive a 200 hp motorcycle so what I’ll do is give you the numbers for an EV.

          0.3 kWh per mile. So 90 kWh for 300 miles. Going to be driving 300 miles every day, day in and day out? Highly unusual, but we can do that math. Maybe you mean 300 miles per day per base.

          Assume 4.5 solar hours per day, it would take 20 kW of panels.

          Just picking the first panel that popped up, a Sharp 250 watt panel. 64.6 × 39.1 inches = 17.54 sq ft for 250 watts. 0.07 sq ft per watt. 20 kW would be 1,403 square feet.

          Are you aware that fuel in a combat theater can cost $300 – $400/gallon? Plus get a lot of fuel truck drivers killed?

          The leaders of our military are very aware of the cost.

    • Doug

      Oil tanks are even more vulnerable a target than solar cells. They have this tendency to explode. Getting fuel out to remote sites to power generators is very difficult, which is why the army is keen on alteratives that can keep a unit self-sufficient in the field for the maximum amount of time.

      Take hand-held radios and GPS units. Today, a solider must carry dozens of replacement batteries – adding to the weight of their pack. Once the batteries are dead, replacements must be sent out to them, usually at great risk. With small solar units, mobile devices can be easily re-charged in the field. The soldier doesn’t need dozens of replacement batteries.

      Hybrid military vehicles reduce, but don’t eliminate the need for fuel – what commander would pass up the opportunity to reduce fuel use?

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