When you think of military vehicles, iconic vehicles like the HMMWV (aka “Humvee”) and historical vehicles like the Jeep probably come to mind. But, we also have to keep in mind that for every fighter, there are at least ten support personnel making sure that those on the front line have what they need. So, the United States military has many, many vehicles used for the same things civilian vehicles are used for. Running people around, running errands, picking up supplies, delivering things, policing military bases–the list goes on and on.
This makes most of the U.S. military a prime target for going electric. Instead of having to talk somebody into it, there’s nothing stopping the military from buying EVs and building charging stations for them. And, that’s exactly what the Biden Administration has been doing.
Specifically, the military is already under orders from the Commander in Chief. Executive Order 14057, “Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability” requires the DoD to swap out all nontactical vehicles and build a zero-emission fleet. The military now targets 100% of light-duty vehicles to be EV by 2027, and 100% of medium- and heavy-duty trucks to go electric by 2035.
According to at least one news release in 2023, the Army plans to meet this standard ahead of deadline, and several other news releases show that the Army is quite serious about this.
One story comes from the Presidio of Monterey. On that base, several vehicles have already been swapped out for EVs, and the base has gone above and beyond by installing off-grid solar-powered charging stations (the featured image at top shows one of these stations). And, the officers mentioned in the original press release seem excited and committed to the swap.
Given that this was a military-wide order, it’s no surprise that a number of other military bases and facilities are doing the same thing. For example, Fort Carson in Colorado received 25 F-150 Lightning pickup trucks in April, and the base has already installed a number of charging stations to support them.
“They’re incredibly quiet and feel good to drive. They also accelerate very rapidly. Overall, their performance is very good,” said Joe Wyka, director of Public Works for Fort Carson.
The base intends to purchase an additional 25 Lightnings, but supply chain issues and shortages kept base officials from being able to get orders in as quickly as hoped. As at the Presidio, Fort Carson is installing solar-powered charging stations around the base as needed to provide clean, off-grid power to the vehicles. The only downside is that these stations will only be open to military vehicles, and not the personally-owned vehicles that soldiers and contractors drive.
Fort Moore in Georgia is also on it.
“We have started installing 63 dual-port plug-in, EV charging stations at 23 locations across the post, allowing for 126 government-owned EVs to be plugged into the grid simultaneously,” said Damian Haye, a mechanical engineer with Fort Moore’s Directorate of Public Works. The $3.9 million project will be completed in the first quarter of 2024, so all of these stations will be up and running pretty fast.
“Each EV charger is 10% more energy efficient, reducing energy consumption, which means significant energy savings,” said Garland Turner, a resource efficiency manager with DPW. “Not only are we saving money, but we are also having a positive impact on the environment.”
Another great thing is that the order to go electric is not limited to the full-time military. The National Guard is also charging toward the goal.
According to General Daniel Hokanson, this is a key part of plans to keep the National Guard modern and responsive, which in turn keeps it relevant to the overall defense mission. The National Guard plans to swap out 13,000 non-tactical vehicles to hybrid or electric in the next four years and the tactical vehicles by 2035. According to Guard officials, this will mean spending as much as 50% less on fuel.
“All of our influence on the overall climate strategy is important, and it is important to be a part of the solution and not be a part of the problem,” said Col. Timothy Wood, NGB logistics officer. “So, we move forward, not just because it’s just an executive order, but because it’s the right thing to do and fall in line with our future.”
The Colorado Army National Guard was one of the early successes of the program. From 2019 to 2020, the Colorado Guard’s EQ program helped replace five non-tactical vehicles with several EVs and one hybrid. By 2026, COARNG says it plans to achieve 12% battery electric and 18% plug-in hybrid vehicles for the total fleet, some of which is owned by the state government and some of which is owned by the federal government.
According to Guard officials, this joint state-federal mission and command structure makes the process of switching Guard units to electric a lot more complicated.
“We work in a system of systems: our states, our parent services, the Joint Force, and our partnerships at every level. We must be an operational force that is modernized so we are fully interoperable with the Joint Force and our partners and allies,” said Hokanson. “Modernization begins as an enterprise.”
Instead of switching out for electric and installing chargers on large federal-only bases, National Guard units are dealing with larger challenges. States often do have their own military bases for National Guard units and for both state defense forces and other state militia plans to be activated in big enough emergencies. But, most of the facilities are smaller armories scattered around states.
“As we convert, going to a hybrid version first allows us some time and flexibility to meet climate strategy goals, but at the same time continue with our mission,” said Col. Timothy Wood, NGB logistics officer. “So, as we balance the resources that we do have, we’re not taking away from the readiness of those units in those states.”
In the long run, many armories will be upgraded to include microgrids, and a mix of solar and diesel power to charge EVs. This gives the National Guard maximum flexibility in responding to not only fighting needs, but natural disasters and other stateside duties.
All images provided by the U.S. Department of Defense (Public Domain). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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