Air Force in the United States begins testing electric vehicle fleet

A U.S Air Force Base in Los Angeles has begun testing an EV fleet with a two-way power flow during late 2014. This has marked a first concerning a federal facility replacing their entire fleet with plug-in electric vehicles, where most have bidirectional capacities which allow them to take part within the energy markets of California.

The fleet consists of 42 vehicles (including both electric and plug-in hybrid varieties), such as sedans and even a twelve-passenger van. 36 of the 42 have the ability to conduct a power exchange between itself and the grid, and as such they will offer a demand response as well as ancillary services. This will afford the base a chance to generate some revenue in order to offset certain expenses regarding the replacement project.

Air Force’s landmark moment testing EV fleet

The aim of the program is to meet the Defence Department’s goal of leading a cleaner and greener existence by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, reducing fleet costs as well as trying to enhance the bases operational capabilities. If an outage were to occur, they have the option of pulling power through the batteries within the EVs as it is a great energy resilience back-up plan.

The base will have 3 different charging stations available on site namely, one from CHAdeMO and two models of SAE chargers. Kisensum Inc’s On-Base Electric Vehicle Infrastructure software will provide necessary EV management and charging tools while Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model will aid with optimizing the fleet schedule.

Other systems operating aid in the functioning of the project are the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) Regulation Up and Regulation Down markets as well as the OpenADR protocol. These will help with better response times from the grid, ease payment transactions between energy market participation whereby it becomes easier for businesses and clients within other markets to adopt the system.

The sites were selected to take into account operational settings, geographical climates and various energy markets. Four other installations will conduct similar testing on the positives of bidirectional power flow but on a smaller scale.

The technologies that are used are brand new, such as the Princeton Power Systems, they have developed thirteen CHAdeMO-based charging stations using its UL-certified bidirectional multi-port inverter, known as the GTIB-30.

Department of Defence collaborated with shareholders for EV technology

Bringing together a variety of shareholders was a tough part in the project, so the American Department of Defence had to collaborate with private sectors in order to create and develop the technology needed but at the same time the Public Utilities Commission had to pass resolutions enabling the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) projects in California to go ahead while CAISO had to create a V2G roadmap. State government was also a part of the project (they contributed $5.3 million) as well as various automakers and the General Services Administration.

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As with all federal agencies, the Department of Defence has to make all newly acquired light-weight duty vehicles alternative with regards to their powering needs by January 2016. During 2013 the DOD set aside $20 million for EV purchases.

The total amount to run this particular air force EV fleet project is close to $33 million which includes funding. The Department is still working out the costs required to take part in other energy markets, as it hasn’t ever been accomplished before, there are no data pre-existing detailing how much an EV may generate by putting power into the grid.

Money to be gained by putting power made by Air Force back into the grid

Estimations do indicate that the air force could generate $150 per kilowatt per year if it was hooked up to the grid 24/7. Almost all of the vehicles being used at 15 kilowatts, and so will earn some portion of $2,250 over the course of a year, or some portion of $187 each month.

The goal of the project is to conduct research into vehicle-to-grid capabilities that would generate enough profits to make the adoption of EVs cost-competitive when compared to gas run vehicles.

The Department of Defence has purchased most of the vehicles needed in the Air Force program, but the department on the whole leases such vehicles directly from the manufacturers via GSA. The Leaf as an example is leased for $199 a month, so if it can earn $100 a month in revenue due to ancillary services, the cost to lease the Leaf is cut in half, which doesn’t even take into account savings on gas, less maintenance costs and other variable factors.

Main purpose of Air Force project is research into EV viability in defence

The vehicles being leased by the Department for the Air Force Base demonstration are pick-up trucks. These are conventional gas-run Ford pick-ups, where the GSA is paying for them to be modelled into hybrid plug-in vehicles.

This program will open up avenues allowing the Department of Defence to gain easier access to alternative fuel technologies. It’s therefore considering other types of arrangements with the GSA as well as third-party suppliers to take advantage of the incentives offered that aren’t extended to federal agencies.

“By the end of this Air Force demonstration, there will be a pretty wide range of products available to the DOD, but also to others who want to replicate the project,” said Cameron Gorguinpour, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.

Photo by: Ethan Crowley on Flickr

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Motivated and dynamic journalist with a strong interest in sustainable solar powered technology. My work in journalism and new media has provided me with a medium to produce content concerning emerging renewable energy.

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