Electric Vehicles
US Army to Rollout 4,000 Electric Vehicles by 2011

By Scott Lachut
January 16, 2009

During 2008, the U.S. Army moved to establish the Army Energy Task Force to
assess and implement various energy initiatives with an aim towards reducing
consumption while promoting alternative and renewable fuels sources and creating
an overall culture of awareness throughout its operations. Earlier this week, we
had an opportunity to sit in on a discussion with Mr. Paul Bollinger, the Deputy
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Partnerships and Executive
Secretary of the newly formed Senior Energy Council, to learn about the Army’s
first pilot project to rollout in 2009. With its Neighborhood Electric Vehicle
(NEV) program, the Army will lease and install 4,000 NEVs at numerous Army Bases
nationwide within the next three years (800 in 2009). On Monday January 12, the
Army received its first six vehicles, manufactured by Global Electric Motors, a
division of the Chrysler Corporation, at Virginia’s Fort Myer.

The vehicles are non-tactical in nature, primarily serving for passenger
transport, security patrols, maintenance and delivery, and will be used to
replace some of the Army’s fleet of 28,000 sedans and light duty trucks. NEVs
are street legal with top speeds of 25-30 mph and a 1,000 pound carrying
capacity. They operate on nine eight-volt gel batteries and can travel an
estimated 30 miles on a single charge - the average full charge taking
approximately eight hours.

Considering our country’s swelling defense budget, finding ways to curb our
spending has become a necessity and based on the financials alone, the use of
these NEVs makes sense. The Army calculates that their lease cost savings will
be $3,300 versus a gasoline-powered sedan and $13,000 versus a hybrid sedan. In
addition, the NEVs will cost an estimated $740 less to power over gasoline
fueled vehicles (hybrid comparisons were not provided). There will be a
one-time outlay of $800,000 for the installation of electric outlet stations at
the various bases, but if the Army’s numbers are accurate, this fixed cost will
more than be recouped in total savings during the first year.

Beyond these cost benefits, the NEVs will have positive environmental impact as
well, significantly reducing the Army’s overall footprint. In the next six
years, the use of this relatively small fleet of vehicles will result in 11.5
million gallons of fossil fuel saved for an estimated 115,000 fewer tons of CO2
emissions. However, what might be even more important is the precedent that this
initiative sets for not only other large government institutions, but for
corporations as well. If the Army can prove that this a viable option with clear
benefits then this will propel other industries to adopt similar measures. With
a growing demand, automobile manufacturers will have no choice but to follow
suit with the necessary infrastructure or risk being left behind (given the
realities currently being faced by this industry, the decision seems obvious).

And as we’ve seen, competition drives innovation - a situation that we can all
benefit from.


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