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Energy-efficient cars getting the green light from Navy

Energy-efficient cars getting the green light from Navy

Personnel pose at Navy Support Activity Mid-South during a ribbon cutting for the installation’s photovoltaic charging station. The photovoltaic charging station uses solar energy to charge electric and hybrid vehicles. This station is in Tennessee, but similar vehicles and charging stations have recently been installed at NAVFAC Southwest in San Diego as part of the Department of Navy’s transition to electric vehicles. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class William Jamieson/Released)

By Rindi White

Sailors at Naval Base San Diego are gearing up for the future. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, or NAVFAC, Southwest is leading the Department of Navy’s transition to electric vehicles, a move that will save more than 51,000 gallons of fuel each year, base officials say.

In May, 205 battery-powered electric vehicles and charging infrastructure were delivered to 10 Navy and Marine Corps installations across California. These are the first 205 second-generation Ford Focus EV cars built at Ford’s plant in Wayne, Michigan. Of these vehicles, 104 will go to Navy installations and 101 to Marine Corps installations. According to the NAVFAC public affairs office, 58 of the vehicles are housed at Naval Base San Diego — the most of any of the 10 installations receiving the vehicles. Ninety-two charging stations were built to support the electric vehicle fleet at a cost of $3.2 million.

“Reduction of greenhouse gases and other emissions provides benefits both to our personnel and the surrounding communities,” said Bernie Lindsey, Navy Region Southwest’s Energy program manager. “These electric cars, when operated off base, will provide a highly visible example of the feasibility and value of zero-emission transportation.”

NAVFAC Southwest’s public affairs office said the transition is being done to reduce fuel consumption, increase energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas levels. It’s part of a widespread transition of the Department of Navy’s California vehicle fleet to zero-emission vehicles, and it’s being done in partnership with the state of California through the California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board and California Public Utilities Commission.

“This electrification of the nontactical vehicle fleet is an element in a larger program that also includes increasing the use of telematics to better manage the Department of Navy’s vehicle fleet,” Lindsey said. “These electric vehicles are being programmed to recharge during grid off peak hours, helping grid management.”

The Navy and Marine Corps typically get nontactical vehicles through GSA leases. The lease for these EVs runs through September 2020.

A 2013 report by Navigant Research, “Alternative Drive Vehicles for Military Applications,” states that the Department of Defense was at that time expected to acquire more than 92,400 electric vehicles between 2013 and 2020.

The move, according to Navigant research analyst Scott Shepard, is driven by an effort to decrease the cost of moving fuels in the field.

“In remote theaters of operations, the cost of moving fuels to forward military locations can be a multiple of the cost of the fuel itself,” Shepard said. “The military’s approach to reducing fossil fuel consumption from non-tactical operations includes acquiring increasing numbers of vehicles powered by ethanol blend and biodiesel blend fuels; but the majority of the investment will go toward HEVs and PEVs.”

HEVs are hybrid electric vehicles, and PEVs are plug-in electric vehicles.

The fleet of electric vehicles may not be limited to nontactical vehicles much longer. The company BAE Systems announced in June that it had signed an agreement to team with QinetiQ to incorporate the latest technology for electric-drive mobility systems on combat vehicles.

BAE Systems is a vehicle designer, developer, manufacturer and systems integrator; QinetiQ is a leading United Kingdom science and engineering company that operates primarily in the defense, security and aerospace markets.

QinetiQ’s E-X-Drive transmission for tracked combat vehicles was, according to a press release from BAE Systems, first developed in 1999 as an alternative to more complex and limiting traditional drive systems. The company has worked with BAE Systems since 2004 to evolve the electric transmission to a mature technology. It was successfully demonstrated in the U.S. for tracked combat vehicles ranging from 18 to more than 70 tons.

“This agreement marks a significant step toward wide-scale adoption of electric drive systems for combat vehicles. More than 18 years of research and development at QinetiQ has led to a range of highly advanced technology that will improve survivability and performance by enabling radical new vehicle architectures,” said Dr. David Moore, campaign director for Electrical Propulsion and Drivetrains at QinetiQ. “These could save lives by placing the crew in a safer position within the vehicle or improving its agility and mobility to reduce its exposure to danger. Our strategic partnership with BAE Systems creates new opportunities for customers globally to exploit the huge potential of this game-changing technology and demonstrates QinetiQ’s commitment to achieving international growth through collaboration and innovation.”

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