Sunday, February 22, 2009

Army’s Electric Car Imbecility

The US Army is in the opinion that more high technology gadgets will deliver a solution to the energy needs of the future. They are dead wrong.

The US Army announced (Army Announces Historic Electric Vehicle Lease) in January 2009 that it plans to lease 4000 neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) until the end of 2011, which will constitute the largest acquisition of electric vehicles not only in the US but probably in the world. They will be used on Army bases for passenger transport, security patrol, and maintenance and delivery services.

Let us remember the Army Energy Campaign Plan’s five goals for 2030:

1. Eliminate energy waste in existing facilities
2. Increase energy efficiency in new construction and renovations
3. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
4. Conserve water resources
5. Improve energy security

Electric cars fit in points 3 and 5. Great, but ridiculous.

Let me explain why.

An article by Becky Steed (Fort Leavenworth saves energy, money with electric cars) in the current issue of Public Works Digest[1]

“Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is getting green — environmentally speaking — and saving money with energy efficient ingenuity. Eight electric vehicles have been added to the growing fleet of efficient government transportation, bringing the garrison’s total to 13…..…..the cost to run a gas powered vehicle 20 miles a day at $2 a gallon is around $742 a year. The cost to run a GEM [Global Electric Motorcars] vehicle is less than $40 a year for the same mileage…….The purpose of the vehicles is short distance commuting for meetings and daily government tasks.” [emphasis added]

Source: General Electric Motorcars

GEM costs more than $10,000 and run solely on gel cell batteries. The vehicles plug into an outlet to recharge. They stay charged for around eight hours and reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour in High Mod (15 mph in Low Mode), which happens to be the less than the top speed in most military facilities.

First, what is the aim? Well, short distance commuting.
Second, how fast are they? Less than 25 mph.
Third, how many people can it carry? Well, 4 of the 6 available models can carry only 2 people. But I guess they mostly carry only one person. So, to carry (about) a 80 kg person you need this minimum 520 kg car.

In their GEM Models brochure the company says “Imagine spending just two cents per mile to operate a vehicle that can take you most places you need to go on your work site, campus, or in the neighborhood. In fact, for about $1.00 of electricity you can drive 50 miles in a GEM car. Show us a gasoline powered vehicle that can match that savings!”

Wow, I am really impressed with the magnitude of twisted logic.

Let me show you an alternative that saves even that $1. Bicycle!

Source: Los Angeles Times

Its speed is around 20 mph. consumes no commercial energy and emits no pollution. Needs no infrastructure. Its range is around the same as GEM.

Let me quote e few word from the Speech of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, at the AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference (Hartford, Connecticut, Monday, July 21, 2008): “Another key area of research and development where we need to continue to make gains is in the exploration of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts aimed at reducing our military’s reliance on traditional fuel. Improving energy efficiency continues to be one of the top 25 overarching goals as Deputy Secretary of Defense. “

When talking about energy alternatives the DoD officials must pay more attention on productivity, effectiveness and cost subject to the purpose. Sometimes no-energy can also be an energy alternative. Bicycle is one of them.

See also this recent article on the use of Bicycles in Amsterdam. If a city can do it, why a military cannot?

[1] Public Works Digest (of U.S. ARMY INSTALLATION MANAGEMENT COMMAND), Volume XXI, No.1, January/February 2009, p.22


At 3:43 PM, Blogger Michael said...

At $300 each for a bike and $10k each for a NEV, the total of 21 NEV's budget would give the garrison 700 bikes; probably more than enough give everyone there a bike with several spares.

I am afraid that the image of US soldiers riding bicycles is not quite macho enough for our military. Also the way facilities are rewarded with larger budgets for spending the previous years budget completely is a problem.


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