USMC Leadership with EVs, Biofuel and Hydrogen

USMC Leadership with EVs, Biofuel and Hydrogen

Marines GM truckThe United States Marine Corp (USMC), like all branches of the Department of Defense (DoD), is exploring the use of hydrogen and other forms of clean transportation. One major motivation is that the fuel which runs U.S. Defense operations comes from oil. That oil is increasingly controlled by countries that have declared their animosity to the United States. If military fuel is controlled by the enemy, then our ability to defend this country is crippled.

World War II provides a valuable history lesson. On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. The United States entered World War II. It quickly became apparent that worldwide natural rubber supplies were limited, and by mid-1942 most of the rubber-producing regions were under Japanese control. Military trucks needed rubber for tires, and rubber was used in almost every other war machine.

In 1942, synthetic rubber was considered too expensive for wide usage just as hydrogen is now considered too expensive. The US government launched a major effort to increase synthetic rubber production. By 1944, a total of 50 factories were manufacturing it, pouring out a volume of the material twice that of the world’s natural rubber production before the beginning of the war.

Now at Pearl Harbor, history is in a sense repeating itself. Hickam Air Force Base is putting into service a hydrogen fuel cell bus and a hydrogen fuel cell van. This hydrogen is sourced from U.S. natural gas reformed with steam. This hydrogen and other uses of alt-fuels are steps towards energy independence.

Leading suppliers of oil to the USA include Iraq and two countries that it boarders, Saudi Arabia and Iran. If we were shut-off from oil from those three countries, our economy would suffer more than in the great depression. Also, without their oil, U.S. military defense would be crippled. In 1990, Saddam Hussein asked OPEC to raise oil prices. He needed the money to recover billions lost in a protracted war with Iran. OPEC refused. Soon, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with 120,000 troops and 2,000 tanks and seized its oil. Then Iraqi troops began to mass along the Saudi border, breaching it at some points, and indicating the possibility that Hussein’s forces would continue south into Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.

Regarding Iraq’s actions as a threat to a vital interest of the US, namely the oil production capability of the Persian Gulf region, President George Bush ordered warplanes and ground forces to Saudi Arabia. Operation Desert Shield, the US military deployment to first defend Saudi Arabia grew rapidly to become the largest American deployment since Vietnam. Years of subsequent embargo of Iraq have raised oil prices as the USA went to other nations for oil. 1990 Desert Shield and the current 2006 Iraq War demonstrate the need for energy independence.

Energy independence is a key objective of the U.S. military. Military vehicles can broadly be classified as either tactical or commercial. Tactical includes all the vehicles that are deployed in war and expeditionary environments including humvees, tanks, amphibious vehicles and helicopters. Commercial vehicles handle much of the transportation and goods movement here in the USA. DoD is taking major steps towards energy independence with commercial vehicles

An obstacle to being free of dependence on foreign oil is that all tactical vehicles have been required to use an oil-derived jet fuel JP-8. In some ways, the use of this single fuel simplifies logistics. But using JP-8 creates serious problems. Consider this irony. Fuel from oil constitutes 70% of the U.S. military’s total weight that must be transported into battle for transportation and stationary power. Our battles are increasingly about the oil that is converted into that fuel. We now have an opportunity to transition to hydrogen that is lighter to transport, does not make us vulnerable to foreign suppliers, and is not a cause of war.

Marines GEMIn California, U.S. Marine Corp Camp Pendleton, as part of the Department of the Navy, demonstrates the shift to using less oil. I recently spent over two hours at Camp Pendleton with Gary Funk, Regional Fleet Manager for Marine Corps West. Camp Pendleton follows the EPAC objective that 75% of commercial garrison mobile equipment purchases will be alt-fuel. With long-term buying contracts and five-year planning cycles, 75% will not happen overnight, but the shift to clean vehicles is taking place. At Camp Pendleton, there are over 320 electric vehicles (EV). Over 200 are electric scooters. 120 are GEMs, the 25 mph DaimlerChrysler vehicle. The EVs use an 8 station charger that is solar powered, providing zero-emissions from source to wheels.

Camp Pendleton also uses hundreds of CNG vehicles. Camp Pendleton is the nation’s largest buyer of biodiesel with annual purchasing of over one million gallons of B20. These one million gallons from virgin soy is a million less gallons of diesel from oil. The use of B20 has been relatively problem free. Some commercial vehicles, such as buses, have fewer problems with B20 than JP-8.

Camp Pendleton had also been proactive in buying flex-fuel vehicles that can use E85 ethanol. This would be another step towards energy independence with the ethanol being processed from corn and blended with only 15% gasoline. Unfortunately, ethanol can produce more smog pollution. Flex-fuel engines from GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler all failed to meet CARB vapor recovery requirements. There was also a severe shortage of E85 in California, due to lack of local production. Camp Pendleton is releasing 200 of its flex-fuel vehicles to other states and running pure gasoline in the remaining vehicles.

The Marine Corp is also starting to demonstrate hydrogen vehicles. Camp Pendleton received the nation’s first GM Equinox. GM is currently putting 100 hydrogen fuel cell Equinoxes on the road. Recently, I drove this exciting vehicle on surface streets and on the freeway. It is a powerful car that many would want to own. It has a range of 180 miles at 10,000 psi. The R&D people at GM have an exciting vision that includes advanced batteries; regenerative braking; a thin “skateboard” platform common to multiple vehicles; drive-by-wire replacement of mechanical links to pedals and steering wheel; and electric motors. GM plans to start selling a next generation fuel cell vehicle by 2011 based on the E-flex platform..

Camp Pendleton plans to officially open the hydrogen station in Spring 2007. Camp Pendleton will produce its hydrogen from natural gas using a Ztek reformer that produces 30 kg/day that will replace trucked-in hydrogen in temporary storage. Initially, there will be 60 kg of hydrogen storage. The fueling station will be 5,000 psi. The fuel station is easily accessible from the I-5 freeway, using the Harbor Drive exit. To encourage shared usage, the station is deliberately located outside the guarded Camp Pendleton. The nearest 10,000 psi station is in Irvine.

Thanks to Camp Pendleton’s leadership another hydrogen station is being built near the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. There hydrogen will be produced by solar electrolysis allowing vehicles to travel with zero emissions on a source-to-wheels basis.

The first hydrogen station was not easy to get approved. The station has been delayed for one year because a full environmental study was commissioned and delivered. The site was determined to be safe. One Marine Colonel felt that a terrorist (or a Marine with a terrible aim) could shoot it with a large shell and cause a massive explosion. An explosion was determined to be unlikely. Because hydrogen is eight times lighter than air, and because the station is in the open air, if the hydrogen storage were punctured, the hydrogen would vent into the sky.

The Hindenburg zeppelin disaster of 1937 balloon explosion was sited. One-third of the passengers died, mostly by jumping, when the massive balloon caught fire. The deaths were blamed on hydrogen. Now we know that if there had been a hydrogen explosion, there would have been no survivors. Likely, it was the cellulose acetate butyrate balloon coating that caught fire. In fact, hydrogen is safer than the JP-8 fuel used by the military.

Limited access to other safety-certified hydrogen vehicles will also be provided. This will make it easier for nearby cities such as Oceanside and San Clemente to add hydrogen vehicles to their city fleets. Both cities are considering demonstrating zero-emission vehicles.

A large maintenance building is near the fueling station. Vehicle manufacturers are encouraged to lease offices are use this as a development and demonstration center much like the CaFCP in West Sacramento. In the future, other hydrogen vehicles, such as cars and SUVs are likely to be deployed at Camp Pendleton. There is strong interest in a hydrogen shuttle or bus. Camp Pendleton also plans to demonstrate a 10kW fuel cell for stationary power.

Beyond just commercial vehicles, Camp Pendleton will demonstrate a tactical vehicle – a tow truck. The Army is also experimenting with a number of hydrogen tactical vehicles, such as the humvee. Although DoD is reluctant to send vehicles into battle using a second fuel a transition from JP-8 is necessary. Hydrogen vehicles promise to increase mission endurance, increase stealth with near silent running, and reduce weight and therefore logistical burden. The cost of air and ground transport of the heavy JP-8, and defending battlefield transport and storage, makes the cost in the hundreds per gallon. Hydrogen is less expensive. It can be electrolyzed on location from water. It can be reformed from local captured fuels. In the short-term, the military’s preference is likely to reform it from JP-8.

Hydrogen fuel cells can also be used in heavy vehicles to provide auxiliary power. Many vehicles idle up to 40% of the time. Because fuel cells generate electricity, hydrogen vehicles can be clustered together in a mini-grid to provide all power for a forward camp.

DoD is serious about energy independence. In 2012, hydrogen vehicles are expected to be standard on the GSA buying schedule.

Will the USA achieve energy independence with electric vehicles and alt-fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, CNG and hydrogen? The success at Camp Pendleton provides a reason to be optimistic.

Cool Commutes

Cool Commutes

Las Vegas BRT

Innovative solutions for energy independence and ending the climate crisis are manifest in Silicon Valley: breakthrough energy storage, biotech conversion of waste to fuel, electric vehicles, fuel cells, materials science, converting sunlight to energy and more.

200 members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) convened to advance a different type of innovation – programs that make employees more effective anytime and anywhere. Organizations are increasing productivity whether employees are at a primary work location, secondary, home, customer site or other remote location. Work Anywhere and Cool Commute programs get increased job results with fewer wasted hours from people trapped in gridlocked traffic.

“Cool Commutes” was the title of the January 31 meeting. “Cool Commutes” is a friendly competition between Bay Area employers to determine which can encourage the greatest number of employees to commute without driving solo. Several attending corporations and government employers shared their success in helping thousands reach work using ride sharing, public transit, bicycling and walking. One CEO in Redwood Shores even canoed to work. Employer programs are both reducing the fuel wasted in commuting and eliminating unnecessary commutes.

Cool commuting is improving the profits of a number of Silicon Valley companies. The new workforce is mobile, at times working at their office, other times at home, other times at a customer site. Effective mobile working often requires wireless services, Internet services, VOIP, VPN, security, laptops, mobile devices with better energy storage and so on. Companies benefiting from secure mobile commuting include the meeting host Hewlett-Packard (HP), plus IBM, Oracle (ORCL), Hyperion (HYSL), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Cisco (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Symantec (SYMC) and hundreds of others.

In addition to revenue improvements, many of these corporations and government employers are seeing cost savings. Healthcare costs lower when employees get more exercise walking and bicycling. Productivity goes up when the stress of rush hour commutes goes down. Mobile workforce strategies coupled with commute programs has allowed many to reduce facility costs. Reduced parking saves up to $2,400 per space. Shared facilities have a much higher payoff.

Cool Commute and flexible work location programs helped several participating high-tech firms with employee recruiting, retention and productivity. The programs did more than benefit employers; all of us benefit from reduced burning of fuel that results in more energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Ann Zis detailed a number of areas of success at Applied Materials (AMAT). Their program, “Applied Anywhere,” addresses their global business environment and provides agility to be closer to the customer as well as supporting the needs of many employees who perform some or their entire job outside the traditional office place. Through the program Applied Anywhere supports eligible employees that at different times may need to work from one of several corporate offices, at home, at an airport, or at a customer site.

“Applied Anywhere” is far more comprehensive than traditional telework programs. The program has made global teams more effective, reduced commute hours, increased productivity, saved gas miles and jet miles. Ann Zis advised workshop attendees to start by interviewing senior executives and to make a program align with corporate and executive goals and objectives. Conduct design workshops to facilitate the creation of program policies, places, technologies and details. Periodically, validate the program goals with focus groups.

All workshop attendees agreed that flexible work location programs fail when the approach is “one size fits all.” In some countries, the management culture requires most employees to be together most of the time. Yet, even in those countries sales and customer engineers are often mobile and at various locations so drop-in centers and satellite office could be a better alternative to solely a “work from home” approach. The nature of the job dictates where people need to be. All attendees also agreed about the importance of technology enablers to support flexible work location programs.

Ann Zis recommended a phased implementation, starting with a group near headquarters that is likely to succeed. It often takes four to six months for people, both managers and employees, to adjust to a new style of work location flexibility. Over time, categories of employees emerged including those that could work from home, mobile, drop-in, while for some, it is still appropriate for them to retain a dedicated seat in an Applied building. The policies, practices, technology and locations were created to support each category.

Currently, over 2500 Applied Materials employees now participate in Applied Anywhere, including over 1400 located outside the U.S.

Flexible work locations reduce unnecessary travel. When travel is necessary, organizations are innovative in making commutes better from employees, employers and the community.

36% of Yahoo headquarters employees get to work without driving solo, reported Danielle Bricker with Yahoo! This is double the 18% mode-shift that the corporation committed to the City of Sunnyvale when building permits were first issued. Yahoo’s cool commute program is comprehensive, popular and getting results.

As one of two dedicated Commute Coordinators at Yahoo, Daniel practices what she preaches. For three years, she has commuted 90-miles daily without owning a car. She commutes by train, using her bicycle to handle the “last mile” at both ends. Intermodal commuting is used by many.

Yahoo provides employees with free VTA Eco-Passes for bus and light-rail. Many of the Yahoo commuters are able to get extra work done using laptops and other mobile devices while commuting on public transit.

Yahoo’s results are impressive considering that Silicon Valley workers are widely dispersed in search of affordable housing. Technologists work long and irregular hours, which makes ridesharing more challenging. Many Silicon Valley locations provide a long and uncomfortable walk in the dark to public transit.

Yahoo addresses these problems in a number of ways. One is that it provides a guaranteed ride home. Yahoo will pay for a late worker’s taxi or rental car. Many at the workshop agreed that a guaranteed ride home is critical to a commute programs success. All agreed that employees rarely use the guarantee, making the cost minimal.

Yahoo has a fleet of shuttles to get people to and from transit, between Yahoo locations, to airports and sometimes providing an emergency ride. Some of the shuttles run on B20 biodiesel.

It is not easy to get employees to change their commuting behavior. Yahoo used surveys, education, an intranet website to help people find others for ridesharing, and YahooGroups to encourage collaboration, and monthly reward competition for those who avoid driving solo.

Yahoo encourages the use of the zero-emission vehicle owned by one billion people on this planet – the bicycle. Yahoo provides bicycler riders with secure storage of their bikes. Free lockers and showers are available. To help people quickly navigate Yahoo’s campus of buildings, loaner bikes are also available.

Many meeting participants recognized the value of the humble bicycle. SVLG CEO, Carl Guardino, commutes to work emission-free three times weekly, riding his bike 30 miles roundtrip. Lockheed Martin will make it easy for employees to zip across its campus with 200 yellow bicycles available for anyone.

Many presenters and attendees praised the non-profit organization “” 511 is an example of friendly systems that allow people to easily travel without getting in their car. 511 allows you to put in your departure and destination locations, then see or hear the best way to travel with public transit, train, even carpooling and bicycling. It even includes current traffic conditions. I have used this wonderful system with everything from an Internet browser ( to my cell phone (dial 511). 511 is widely used in Northern California. offers consulting to employers. Employee surveys, employee home locations, flexible work locations and plans are all considered. Plans and recommendations often include public transportation, carpools, vanpools, bicycles, guaranteed ride homes. Employers like Genentech (DNA) and Stanford University have custom 511 implementations as part of their employee intranets.

Nationwide there are many organizations that offer some of the services provided by 511. Using your favorite search engine type “rideshare” plus your zip code.

Cool Commutes is just one of a dozen exciting initiatives included in SVLG’s “Clean and Green” Energy Action Plan. You can join Cool Commutes at SVLG.