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Hybrid vehicles help cut base emissions

Oct 8, 2009

By Paula M. Fitzgerald, Paraglide

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The use of commercial hybrid vehicles is helping to reduce Fort Bragg's carbon footprint and America's dependency on foreign oil.

In 2007, former President George W. Bush released Executive Order 13423, which requires federal agencies operating a fleet of at least 20 motor vehicles to reduce consumption of petroleum products by two percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015. Additionally, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires the Army to reduce petroleum use by 20 percent while increasing alternative fuel use by 10 percent, by 2015, according to Timothy Shea, Fort Bragg Installation Transportation Officer.

Over the past two years, the Fort Bragg Installation Transportation Motor Pool has received 27 hybrid vehicles, including sedans, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Additionally, the base's General Services Administration has replaced older automobiles with flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on 100 percent gasoline or any blend of up to 85 percent ethanol.

Later this fall, Fort Bragg will have a "green refueling station" for government flex-fuel vehicles. This station will offer two types of biofuel: E85 Ethanol and B20, which is 20 percent biodiesel.
"Our overall objective is to reduce regional emissions," said Charles Young, the base planner for sustainable transportation.

The introduction of hybrid vehicles has been a relatively small step in cutting Fort Bragg's overall carbon emissions, but Young said, "You have to start somewhere. Any changes we can make with transportation can be substantial."

Currently, the TMP base motor fleet uses Ford Fusion Hybrids, Saturn Auras and GMC hybrid pickup trucks. The Fusion Hybrids, which are sedans, and Auras, which are SUVs, have gasoline engines and batteries with electric motor assists. In essence, the vehicles use the electric motor in order to reach a certain speed. Then the gasoline engine takes over and maintains the vehicles speed.

"This makes the car use fuel much more efficiently because a car uses the most gas going from zero to 40 or 50 or whatever speed you want. Once it gets to that speed, it takes very little gasoline to maintain it," Young explained.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is touted by the Ford Motor Company to get 41 miles per gallon in city driving conditions. Young said this is 50 percent better than what older vehicles with only gasoline engines averaged.

In fact, one of the Fusion Hybrids in the base motor fleet has not been filled with gas since March. During a quick three-mile jaunt around base, the car averaged nearly 46 miles per gallon. A similar style sedan with a strictly gasoline engine might get 26 or 27 miles per gallon under comparable driving conditions.

"It is simple math," said Young. "If you cut your consumption of petroleum in half, you cut your emissions in half. Your carbon footprint is 50 percent of what it was."

The base motor fleet will soon include seven hybrid transit buses, which will replace the current ultra-low sulfur diesel troop movement buses in use now, explained Shea. These buses should arrive in January and will be put into operation as soon as possible.

"We shuttled more than 40,000 people this fiscal year around the base," Shea said. "The new buses will operate the first 15 miles of their trip using only electricity. That means to do one loop on the route, the bus will exhibit zero emissions."

Although reducing emissions is good for the environment, this is not the only reason the transition to hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles is important.

"It goes beyond the idea of doing the right thing or trying to clean the air, although that is part of it," explained Young. "The goal is to reduce our need for foreign petroleum. It's a matter of national security, and it makes our Soldiers safer."

The use of commercial hybrids in garrison environments is helping in the production of military vehicles with the same technology.
According to Young, the Army desires to continue working with the automobile industry to develop hybrid technology on the battlefield.

He added, "The Army staff estimates that a one percent reduction of fuel consumption in theater means roughly 6,000 fewer Soldier fuel convoys. This translates into potentially fewer lives lost during operations."

Shea and his team understand the important implications the use of hybrid vehicles can have, both environmentally and militarily. He said, eventually, every vehicle that can be replaced with an alternatively fueled model will be.

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