US military warms to electric cars

Defense Department plans to buy 92,000 hybrid and electric vehicles over the next seven years to trim its fuel bill. They could be especially cost-effective in war zones.

Steve Marcus/Reuters/File
Col. Dave Belote (L), commander of Nellis Air Force Base, and Eric Vander Leest, a photovoltaic system technician for SunPower Corp., walk through an array of solar photovoltaic panels at the base in Las Vegas, Nev. The US Department of Defense is trying to trim its heavy reliance on fossil fuels with, among other things, hybrid and electric cars.

The nation's largest consumer of energy is trying to rid itself of that title. 

The US Department of Defense aims to trim the roughly $17 billion it spent on fuel in 2011 by, among other things, buying electric cars. To be specific, it plans on buying 92,000 hybrid and electric vehicles over the next seven years, according to a report released Thursday by Navigant Research, a Colorado-based consulting firm

That's a boost to the electrified transportation industry, and would represent on an annual basis nearly 3 percent of the hybrid and electric vehicles sold in the United States last year. It's also a huge savings for the military, because its costs of fuel can easily balloon.

“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,” Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant. 

The cost isn't just in dollars, either. One in every 50 convoys suffered a fatality in Afghanistan in 2007, according to the Department of Defense's Operational Energy Plans and Programs. Fuel makes up about half of the material shipped in military convoys. 

“Why are soldiers still dying in fuel convoys when the military could significantly reduce its fuel at remote locations and at the same time save taxpayer dollars?” Daniel Rice told Bloomberg. Mr. Rice served in Iraq before co-founding SunDial, a company that sells renewable technology to the military.

Many of the military's alternative vehicles are used in its light-duty, nontactical fleet, but its foray into new fuels isn't limited to passenger vehicles. One focus moving forward, according to Navigant, is the use of "vehicle-to-grid" technology in both domestic operations and in theaters of war. The technology enables electric cars and trucks to draw on localized microgrids that frees soldiers from having to rely on fuel convoys or electricity in regions where supply is often unstable.

 The military plans to spend $20 million to test a fleet of 500 of these vehicles by the end of this year.

 The greening of military tactical operations goes beyond electric vehicles. The Navy has plans to develop a “Green Strike Group” of ships and aircraft powered by biofuels to be deployed overseas by 2016. It's developing hybrid electric engines for its fleet, which could save $250 million per ship, according to the Defense Department. 

These moves have support from its top post. During his January confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel emphasized a commitment to “operational effectiveness and efficiency – improving the energy performance of aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and military bases; reducing the vulnerability of our fuel supply lines; decreasing the load our expeditionary forces must carry; and diversifying the energy supplies we use.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to US military warms to electric cars
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today