Clean Transport US Air Force electric vehicle with V2G at Los Angeles AFB

Published on November 24th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Keystone, Schmeystone Part II: Air Force Nails Biggest V2G Fleet In The World

November 24th, 2014 by  

It seems like only yesterday we were saying that the US Marines are looking for new mobile energy solutions, when along comes the US Air Force to up the ante. The Air Force has just nabbed bragging rights to the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the world with vehicle-to-grid capability, demonstrating yet again that the big fuss over the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is getting sillier by the minute, considering that it’s just another 20th century fossil fuel transportation project in a 21st century world.

That US Marines thing involves portable solar, so let’s see how EV vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is going to work for the Air Force.

US Air Force  electric vehicle with V2G at Los Angeles AFB

Electric vehicles with V2G capability at Los Angeles Air Force Base (courtesy of USAF/Sarah Corrice).

World’s Largest V2G Fleet

The new Air Force V2G/EV fleet was unveiled last week at Los Angeles Air Force Base, making it the first Defense facility — actually, the first federal facility of any kind — to replace all of its general-purpose vehicles with plug-in EVs.

According to the Defense Department, it’s also the largest operational V2G demonstration in the world.

Here’s the rundown from DoD:

The fleet consists of 42 vehicles, including sedans, pick-up trucks and minivans. 36 of them will be V2G-capable, which means that they can discharge power onto the utility grid to improve power quality and temporarily relieve congestion.

That V2G thing is a little more complicated than it looks. It’s one thing to manage V2G in a self contained microgrid, but when you’re talking grid connection that requires a lot of legwork.


To get the regulatory platform set up for V2G, the Air Force partnered with the State of California and Southern California Edison, in addition to collaborating with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and various stakeholders in academia and the private sector. The partnership will also include additional research and development of V2G technologies aimed at modernizing (there’s that 21st century thing again) the Defense fleet overall.

The immediate goal of the V2G program at Los Angeles AFB is to enable the facility to pitch in and help prevent brownouts in the region, by using the vehicle batteries to balance out supply and demand.

To be clear, the aim of converting domestic bases to V2G/EV capability isn’t just to be better neighbors. The Air Force’s interest in 21st century tech also extends to expeditionary forces.

That’s right, the new fleet of a few dozen vehicles is just for proof-of-concept. Los Angeles AFB is the first pilot project in a program that will encompass Fort Hood, Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Mountain View Army Reserve Center, for starters.

According to DoD, the Air Force is also looking at the potential for repurposing worn EV batteries for use in stationary energy storage (Ford is already exploring that angle, btw, as is Sumimoto Corp.).

About Those Electric Vehicles…

Those of you who have been following the debate over fuel cell EVs and battery EVs are probably noticing that there is a big empty hole in this V2G thing, namely, where do you suppose all that electricity is coming from?

The problem with both fuel cells and batteries is that while we’re in this transitional period, a lot of the supply chain for both types of EV still involves fossil natural gas and coal.

Not to worry, it looks like Los Angeles AFB is a step ahead. We first took note of the V2G changeover about three years ago, back when it was just a glimmer in somebody’s eye, and the facility was already going at solar energy hammer and tongs.

Back in 2010 LA AFB began installing solar canopies as part of a broader push for alternative energy and energy efficiency, with the aim of reducing dependence on petroleum, including fuel for its ground vehicle fleet.

In an article describing the project, the Air Force also took a prescient dig at projects like the Keystone XL pipeline:

Unlike private industries, which make their economic decision based on the immediate profit margin, government institutions can look ahead into the future when planning for an energy-saving project. The bottom line is to spend the available budget the best way possible.

Other aspects of the “greening” of LA AFB include a deal with our friends over at SolarCity to put rooftop solar panels on housing at the facility (LA AFB is just one part of SolarCity’s “SolarStrong” initiative for military housing, btw).

For the record, let’s also note that the Air Force is also looking into renewable sources for jet fuel, most notably for its Green Hornet fighter jet.

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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+.

  • Offgridman

    Thanks for the help, and have a great day and holiday week.

  • Will E

    what about Solar to charge the EV.
    no more diesel transport trucks to blast in war zones.
    desert wars are sunny after all.

  • Oh god. Keystone XL is designed for 890,000 barrels per day. Canada is already sending 3.2 million barrels per day of crude to the US out of a total 4.3 million barrels per day produced. There’s close to 4 million barrels per day of already permitted cross border pipeline This is both conventional oil and oil sands derived crude oil. Canada has 8 to 9 million barrels per day of pipelines. Keystone XL is one tenth of this flow.

    As of today, if you live in Chicagoland, much of your gasoline is oil sands derived. As a matter of fact most of the oil sands diluted bitumen is flowing to and through Illinois.

    Tina, this is bad tie-in marketing. You’re making both the military and environmentalists look dumb. The picture below shows existing pipelines and those under construction or in modification. Keystone XL is completed from Cushing, OK to Texas Gulf. Given the Enbridge pipelines from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, Keystone XL has been completely worked around.

    It is important to push EVs and renewables. Click bait titles doesn’t help.

    • Guest

      Never mind that the Keystone XL will only be replacing the capacity that currently comes by more expensive Railroad already. It is not going to contain any oil that is not already going to get to the refinery anyway through another transport.

      I am surprised she did not work the Koch brothers into this article somehow either.

      • Will E

        rumours are Koch Brothers go renewable after all.
        for the money made by Solar and Wind.
        and dollars they want.
        no matter what.

  • JamesWimberley

    V2G makes the base more resilient in case of terrorist sabotage or attack. The military are always thinking of these things.

    • Offgridman

      And the whole community around them more resilient in the case of the affects of climate change, like heatwaves that cause the “brownouts” mentioned. Which forward thinking is much more beneficial to the whole populace.

  • Kyle Field

    Solar is stupid cheap right now. Exciting to see the US Armed forces doing something I care about for the first time in my life. The argument against war and for self sufficient, sustainable transportation is extremely provocative…

    I envision a world where we, in the name of war (because that’s the current reason for funding our military), we fund technologies that in parallel to making us self sufficient in war, also cut the cord of dependency on fossil fuels/hydrocarbons for us back in the homeland. If we’re going to spend billions/trillions on war…why not use it proactively to fix the reason for war in the first place.

    • Offgridman

      War is definitely a futile exercise with the lives and money wasted and the end result usually being not much of a changed situation other than population reduction.
      I would be much happier with our military spending if during times of peace they worked more like the Peace Corps, or Doctor’s Without Borders. This would result in the base causes for wars to be much reduced with the end result of much less expense from ‘wartime’ situations.

    • Will E

      true, cannot agree more.
      instead search for solutions, solve the problem.

  • Doug

    By using Leafs in the motor pool, hundreds of USAF personnel, many right out of college, get the opportunity to drive electric vehicles. So far, the reception has been very positive. LAAFB is a great location for a demo – the engineers working there have been researching, developing and fielding solar arrays for USAF space vehicles for decades.

    • Offgridman

      Even in the original reference link it just says “sedans, pickup trucks and minivans”. You seem to know that it is the Leaf being used as the sedan part part of this mix, do you know what is being used for the other two parts?
      There is a lot of interest in PEV’s, but some of us are waiting for something that is useful in ways other than just moving passengers.
      Thank you in advance for any help you can provide with this information.

      • Doug

        I’ll check.

        • Offgridman

          Thank you for taking the time to do so. I am suspecting the new EV minivan from Nissan and the GM conversion to Hybrids for pickups by the ex executive. But if there are some other options available now it would be nice to know.

          • JamesWimberley

            The battery capacity of typical hybrids is scarcely worth bothering with.
            BYD now make an ev light truck. With the Nissan van chassis, you would cover a large share of mobility needs.

          • Offgridman

            Typical hybrids yes, the VIA motors conversion of GM pickups is supposed to include a 23 Kwh battery for forty miles of 4 wheel drive transportation on electric in a full size truck and already include circuitry to power a home during a blackout. Which is why I thought it might be the military’s choice for a V2G pickup, but I don’t know one way or the other, which is why I asked for some confirmation from someone that seems to know what is going to be used.

          • Offgridman

            Well we were half wrong and half right, Doug found a link at GCR that gives the details of which vehicles will be used. VIA hybrids yes, Nissan minivans no.
            They do list some other options that will be used also that are new to me, which is what I hoped to find out.

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