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USA: DoD to test using electric cars as power source

The Defense Department is testing using electric cars, when they are not being driven, as batteries to power lamps and TVs. Above, Derrick Kuzak, Ford Group vice president of global product development, discusses the Ford Focus electric vehicle at the Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Assembly Plant Dec. 14, 2011, in Wayne, Mich. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

The Defense Department is testing a novel idea: pressing electric cars, when they are not being driven, into service as batteries to power lamps and TVs.

The idea is to regulate the vehicles’ power usage more carefully and return unused power in the vehicles to the civilian grid.

For Pentagon officials, this translates into dollar signs.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, said some DoD projections show the revenue from utility companies for the returned power could completely offset the vehicles’ costs.

“It could mean we get the vehicles at no cost, which — if we are able to — would change the industry and would certainly help the American public,” Hammack said.

At Los Angeles Air Force Base, the Air Force is replacing 43 gas- and diesel-powered vehicles with electric versions and building charging stations that allow the electric vehicles to send energy back into the grid. The project will be running by August for at least a year while the Defense Department gathers data and gauges the program’s effectiveness, said Camron Gorguinpour, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.

Gorguinpour said each vehicle in the plug-in electric vehicle program could bring in as much as $7,300 a year using this technique. The vehicles include passenger cars, trucks and buses, ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 in purchase cost.

DoD is expanding the $20 million program to five other installations: Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The projects will come online by the end of the year, according to Gorguinpour. If they show positive results, the program will be expanded to include 30 installations across the country — with 1,500 electric vehicles in all.

After that, DoD will decide how to further expand the program.


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