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U.S. Navy Going Green - Tests Solar Powered Trucks on Florida Base

JACKSONVILLE, FL - Captain John J. Henzel, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast commanding officer test drove a new solar powered truck in a demonstration to highlight the command's intent to incorporate solar powered slow moving vehicles (SMVs) into the Navy's fleet. The shift is designed to offset utility demands as the Navy moves into the electric vehicle market.

Navy's New Solar Powered Truck

Capt. Heinzel drove the vehicle to determine its operational capabilities now that the SMVs are available through NAVFAC Southeast's Transportation Department.

"I am impressed with the power it has," said Heinzel. "I am glad to see that we continue to bring new products like this to our transportation fleet. We need to be in the forefront as technology changes and improves."

Navy Ordered To Reduce Petroleum Usage

The Navy has begun implementing new environmentally friendly techniques in the workspace, something mandated by Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus. According to Jesse Evans, the transportation specialist at the base, the Navy has been ordered to reduce its petroleum usage 50 percent by 2015, using 2009 as the baseline. . "This is a tall order based on our customers mission requirements so we must venture away from fossil fuel vehicles and move into a greener state."

Focus Is On Reducing Overall Energy Consumption

Electric vehicles provide the means to move off of petroleum. However, with the focus to reduce overall energy consumption, NAVFAC is also looking seriously at future impacts on the electrical grid and is reaching out to new technologies and hoping that solar technology will help offset utility demand to its customers.

New Vehicles Designed To Reduce Electrical Demand

"The new vehicles are electric powered with solar integration, which is designed to increase the range capability and provide charging which will increase the life of the battery and reduce the electrical demand," said Evans. "The secretary of the Navy calls for more than 2,500 SMVs to be in the Navy fleet. The Southeast has the third largest fleet in the Navy and our goal is a 750 SMV inventory fleet by 2015."

There are currently 314 SMVs in the Southeast inventory with 23 having solar integration. The base's inventory includes sedans, pickup trucks, passenger and cargo vans and maintenance utility configurations, all vehicles capable of accommodating the majority of all mission requirements that are out there.

"By fiscal year 2012, NAVFAC Southeast will have a total of 412 electric SMVs with 121 of those having solar integration across the Southeast," said Evans. "A majority of the solar integrated SMVs are going to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga."

Evans, not quite willing to sign on to the "Green Thing," said SMVs are not a "green substitute" for a fossil fuel vehicle, but rather are designed to meet mission minimum requirements at a reduced rental cost. The fact that they are environmentally friendly is a bonus.

SMVs are economical, eco-friendly, versatile and safe alternatives to big engine gas vehicles. They produce zero-emissions and can be driven indoors (i.e. warehouses, hangars). The overall benefit is the reduction in fossil fuels and green house gas obtained by operating SMVs. In addition, the solar integration reduces the demand on the already overburdened electric grid.

Savings Are Substantial

"For every 35 vehicles converted to SMV, customers would realize a savings of $100,000 annually," said Evans. "Based on a typical half-ton pickup driving 15,000 miles annually, there would be a savings of over $1,200 in fuel costs each year."

Maintenance costs are estimated to drop roughly 15-20 percent during the life of an SMV as the major cost is the batteries. The solar integration increases the life of the battery and in turn increases the life of the vehicle. These drivers will ensure rate changes will be minimal in the future.

The SMVs are designed (and speed-governed) for 20 to 25 mph operations and are confined to the installation. The solar powered SMVs come with standard equipment such as windshields, exterior mirrors mounted on driver and passenger side of the vehicles, head lamps, tail lamps, brake lamps, emergency flashers and turn signals, reflectors, parking brake, safety belts, vehicle ID numbers and horn or other warning device. They meet federal, state and local safety requirements.

An 80 percent charge can occur in two hours with a complete charge in eight hours. A rapid charging systems is available that provides a complete charge within one hour.

Commands interested in renting any of the SMV models should contact their local Public Works Department Transportation Office.

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