HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Electric vehicle charging stations have begun popping up at Army installations across the Nation, less than a year after the Army announced plans to reduce its climate impacts by decreasing fossil fuel use.
The Army’s climate strategy, released in February 2022, outlines a plan to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, in part by transitioning to a fully electric vehicle fleet by 2050. For its non-tactical, light-duty fleet, the service plans to be all-electric by 2027.
To take the first step toward meeting this goal, the Army called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville to provide acquisition services, contract management and technical expertise for installing electric vehicle charging stations at more than 70 sites, said Jason Bray, Huntsville Center program manager for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.
“Because we are a one-stop shop with program management, contracting, engineering and other resources under one roof, they know we can execute these types of projects on a tight deadline,” Bray said. “We got the charge—no pun intended—in June 2022, and we had to award the contract by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.”
Huntsville Center answered the call and awarded contracts for 367 solar-powered charging stations at 50 installations for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) and 112 stations at 21 sites for the Army Materiel Command.
“Because the stations are solar powered and, therefore, not connected to the utilities grid, they don’t require additional construction or electrical work,” Bray said. “The solar piece was not part of the original plan for this acquisition, but we were able to get these in place much faster than other options and added the benefit of meeting energy initiatives in resiliency.”
Each station uses large solar panels that move throughout the day to maximize the amount of power they can draw from the sun. That power is stored in batteries under the panels to allow charging at night and on cloudy days.
Thirty of the contracted stations for IMCOM have already been installed at six garrisons, including seven at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Don Henderson, Redstone Arsenal energy manager, noted numerous benefits to using solar power to charge the installation’s electric vehicles.
“The solar charging stations are self-sustaining, which means there will be savings that come from not using fuel but also from not having to purchase power from our utility provider,” Henderson said. “It also means that they are portable and can be moved from one command to another as the mission or demand changes.”
According to Henderson, solar power, in general, is a more secure means of providing power to vital military resources.
“When you have power coming from the grid, its subject to cyberattacks and natural disasters,” he said. “If you’re relying on the grid and that power line gets cut or the programming gets hacked, it can delay the mission and impact a plethora of things.”
Like other installations, Redstone Arsenal is just beginning its transition to an electric fleet. The Arsenal has plans for seven more charging stations to be installed this year but will need enough stations to charge a full fleet of around 500 nontactical electric vehicles by 2027, Henderson said.
The Army’s climate strategy came as a response to Executive Order 14057, “Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability,” which was issued in December 2021. The order sets out a range of goals for the Federal Government, including 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030, 100% zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, net-zero emission buildings by 2045 and more.
“This project for electric vehicle charging stations was the first of its kind for USACE, and my team was proud to be able to support the Army, and the Nation, in this effort,” said Bray. “We pride ourselves on our ability to constantly learn and adapt in order to meet the needs of our customers.”