Electric Utility Vehicles
Fort Sam Houston has received 20 low-speed electric utility vehicles, known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Fort Sam Houston acquired 20 low-speed electric utility vehicles in January - known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles - as part of a larger Department of Defense order for 4,000 electric cars and trucks tagged for worldwide usage.

When former President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13423 - "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management" - it mandated that federal agencies reduce petroleum usage, reduce petroleum consumption by two percent and increase non-petroleum-based fuel usage by 10 percent annually through fiscal year 2015.

The order also required agencies find more efficient modes of transportation, as well as set goals in the areas of energy efficiency, acquisition, renewable energy, toxics reductions, recycling, renewable energy, sustainable buildings, electronics stewardship, fleets, and water conservation.

To achieve these goals, the Army is testing electric vehicles to see how they stack up against those with gasoline- and diesel-fueled internal combustion engines.

"The electric vehicles have been distributed throughout various units and directorates within the garrison," said Director of Logistics Clarence Anderson.

"There are 20 additional NEVs on order that will be added to the fleet. The Directorate of Logistics will handle distribution to units across the post."

The Army plan calls for replacing up to 28,000 gas-powered ground support vehicles with electric vehicles at more than 155 Army installations worldwide.

Although the NEVs are not street-legal for use on highways, they are intended for non-tactical operations, such as on-post transportation for official visitors and maintenance personnel, and for light equipment.

The electric vehicles operate on a 40-volt battery system which stores electricity to power the motor.

With a top speed of 25 mph, the NEVs have a range of up to 30 miles on a charge and are ideal for short-distance travel, especially around Army installations. The vehicles can be recharged anytime, anywhere, wherever there is a standard 110-volt outlet available.

The Fort Sam Houston Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Office is getting the most from two electric cars purchased for the garrison earlier this year. The environmental fleet includes a two-seat utility truck and a four-seat passenger vehicle.

"We use them for short-distance trips," said Hazardous Waste Manager Bill Burton, who added that one of the vehicles has already logged in 50 miles since its first use in late January. "They can go anywhere around the main post, so they operate very well for us."

By replacing fossil-fuel vehicles with electric vehicles, there are significant cost savings realized for Fort Sam Houston, as well as other Army installations. It costs $460 a year to run an electric vehicle, as opposed to an estimated cost of $1,200 for fossil-fuel-burning cars.

Additionally, there are significant environmental benefits to using electric vehicles. First, NEVs are considered to be zero-emission vehicles because their motors produce no exhaust or emissions.

Secondly, Army fossil fuel consumption can be reduced by 11.5 million gallons overall during a six-year period, which means a reduction of approximately 115,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions during the same period.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center stated that replacing a conventional vehicle with an NEV, substantial emissions would be reduced.

Data collected by the DOE is based on fuel use per mile and life-cycle emissions of conventional passenger vehicles powered by reformulated gasoline.

The DOE findings established that the average passenger vehicle produces 473 grams, or more than a pound, of "greenhouse gases" per mile. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

According to the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/index.html" target=Aca,!A?_blank"> Enivonmental Protection Agency's Web Site</a>, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere.

Some greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide occur naturally and are emitted to the atmosphere through natural processes and human activities. Other greenhouse gases, such as fluorinated gases, are created and emitted solely through human activities.

Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances and are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases.

By replacing conventional gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles, unhealthy volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide can be reduced by 100 percent in urban settings. The reduction of VOCs is important because they are primary contributors to the destruction of ozone and can damage natural ecosystems.

Electric vehicles also substantially reduce air emissions that cause adverse health effects in urban settings, where they can be concentrated and do the most harm to human health and the environment.

NEVs can provide overall substantial air-quality benefits to Army installations and surrounding urban and rural areas regions by reducing greenhouse gases and keeping Fort Sam Houston "Army Green, Army Strong."

(Steve Elliott contributed to this story.)

Page last updated Fri March 19th, 2010 at 15:28