Air Force Fields World’s Largest Vehicle-to-Grid Demo

On Nov. 14 at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California (L.A. AFB), U.S. Air Force officials unveiled the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) first nontactical vehicle fleet composed entirely of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

Actual rollout of the 42-vehicle fleet happened prior to the official ceremony, Christina Greer of the base’s Public Affairs office told POWER, and marks a milestone in the DOD’s demonstration of emerging technology. The PEV fleet includes both electric and hybrid vehicles ranging from sedans to trucks and a 12-passenger van. Thirty-six of the vehicles can direct power both to and from the electrical grid when they’re not being driven, known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Charging stations have been installed at L.A. AFB to support the vehicles’ V2G capability (Figure 5).

US Air Force tests first all-electric vehicle fleet in California
5. Air Force road fleet goes electric. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rey Sedantes of the 61st Civil Engineering and Logistics Squadron at Los Angeles Air Force Base, receives instruction on how to operate the Princeton Power Systems’ bidirectional electric vehicle charging stations from vehicle operations contractor Oscar Machado during a training demo on Oct. 31, 2014. Courtesy: U.S. Air Force, Sarah Corrice

V2G enables the vehicles to provide more than 700 kW to the grid if all are plugged in at the same time, typically at night.

California energy providers and regulators worked closely with the Air Force on safety and performance testing as well as technical and regulatory aspects of launching the fleet.

“We absolutely couldn’t have done this without our federal, state and private partners,” said Miranda Ballentine, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy at the November event. “The shared investment and commitment by our partners illustrates that innovations such as this have value not only to the Air Force and Department of Defense, but to the nation as a whole.”

Greer said the Air Force already considers the demonstration a success story and is planning to expand the V2G demonstration to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The service will also continue to look for additional capabilities, such as utilizing used batteries as a form of on-base energy storage.

Of course, the U.S. military isn’t alone in deploying PEVs. In addition to individual consumers, several fleet owners are deploying EV pilots. Among them are utilities, including Duke Energy and several in California. Duke, for example, has made a commitment, via the Clinton Global Initiative, that by 2020 all new fleet vehicle purchases will be PEVs.

An 18-month Duke pilot, in partnership with Siemens Energy Management Division and Ford, funded as part of a grant received from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, found that home PEV charging can reduce charging costs up to 60% by charging during periods with low electricity rates. Siemens provided the first Underwriters Laboratories–approved residential electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to demonstrate the ability to monitor status, report energy use, and be controlled locally via the local area network as well as from the cloud.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has encouraged its members, investor-owned utilities (IOUs), to spend at least 5% of annual fleet acquisition budgets on PEVs and technologies. According to a June 2014 EEI white paper, “electrification of the transportation sector is a potential ‘quadruple win’ for electric utilities and society, and it will enable electric utilities to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and assure the future value of existing assets.” More than 70 IOUs are expected to increase investment by an estimated $50 million per year, or $250 million over five years, to add more PEVs to their fleets starting this year.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has also debuted the first hybrid drivetrain Class 5 bucket truck. The truck, developed by PG&E in partnership with Efficient Drivetrains Inc., features up to 40-mile all-electric range and “electrifies” all onboard equipment including the boom, eliminating the need to idle the truck engines while at job sites, according to the utility. PG&E claims to operate the nation’s greenest utility fleet, consisting of nearly 1,500 electric and electric-hybrid vehicles and a total of 3,500 alternative-fuel vehicles.

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, editor