With the federal government’s push for energy efficiency on the rise, the Defense Logistics Agency continues to explore alternative fuel vehicles in its motor pool fleet. With funding from a General Services Administration initiative, a 2012 Chevrolet Volt with a lithium-ion battery is already in use at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.
“This started as an initiative by GSA in the national capital region,” said Ted Kukoski, chief of the Customer Support Branch in DLA Installation Support at Fort Belvoir, Va. “There were about 150 electric vehicles that were purchased and divvied up through all the agencies GSA supports. Basically it was to set up the infrastructure, the charging stations, and see how they could charge it and how they could pay for it. So each place set up an electrical charging station, which looks like a little gas nozzle, but is actually a plug that plugs into the vehicle’s electrical outlet.”
For DLA, the Volt is a test, namely due to the expense involved in purchasing electric vehicles, said John Holwick, Fort Belvoir site director in DLA Installation Support.
“Electric vehicles are a more expensive platform for GSA so they’re using the Volt to get out into the fleets as a test,” he said. “We’re using it more as a study. How efficient is it? We want to know. GSA has agreed to provide three more electric or hybrid vehicles next year to DLA but those will be going to the [agency’s] primary-level field activities.”
Acquired in March 2012, the four-cylinder Volt uses an iPort charging station, which charges twice as fast as a regular household outlet, on the agency’s grounds, said Lenny Rose, interim fleet manager in DLA Installation Support at Fort Belvoir.
“The first battery’s charge time is 10 hours; the second battery’s is four hours,” he said. “Our 240 voltage station is charging twice as fast as a 120 volt [outlet], which is what you have at your house. At home, the idea is to plug it in at night and then unplug it in the morning and take off. And if you live a short distance, you don’t have to charge your battery as much.”
Drivers who live up to 30 miles away and charge regularly can average 900 miles from a tank of fuel and electric between fill-ups. By using only electric for local travel, the Volt’s 1.4 liter combustion engine’s fuel costs are cut significantly, Rose said.
“With a full tank of gas and a full battery charge, we get 380 miles in one trip,” he said. “In a year, we save anywhere between $1,200 to $1,500 in gas. Right now, our Volt only has 2,300 miles on it, so it’s been gently used. On the electric battery, we get about 38 miles, then it kicks over to fuel, sometimes because of the weather we’re dealing with.”
With weather being a major factor in battery life, the compact Volt does have its disadvantages, Rose said.
“Regardless of how much battery you have, once it hits a certain temperature outside, the fuel kicks in,” he said. “Then you’re strictly using fuel. So if it’s too cold, it’s going to switch over. And although it fits four adults, there is limited backseat room.”
With normal vehicles turned back into GSA every five years or so based on mileage, Kukoski and Rose estimate the Volt could be utilized by DLA for up to eight years, depending on mileage and service. Although the program still needs some adjustments, Kukoski believes the real potential for electric vehicles is in the future.
“The whole idea is to improve the environment and reduce the emissions,” he said. “Fleets of electric vehicles are the best way to do that. In the future, they’re going to have longer range vehicles, they’ll be able to charge faster, and that will all add to increasing the number we have in the fleet. That’s going to be a little ways away, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”