Army EV Program to Save Carbon, Bucks — and Boost a Chrysler Division

Talk about killing two birds with one stone!  The US Army announced on Monday that it will replace up to 28,000 gas-powered cars and trams with EVs at Army installations all over the world.  The silent, emission-free vehicles that will lead the parade will be supplied by GEM (Global Electric Motorcar), a division of Chrysler (http://www.gemcar.com/models/details.asp?MID=7&ID=310).  The are officially called NEVs, for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, because they are not highway-worthy, with a cruising speed of only 25mph.  We are going to need a program to tell the EVs pretty soon.  Anyway, these are not only NEVs, but BEVs and PEVs.  The story was reported Monday by Candace Lombardi of CNET News (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17912_3-10140994-72.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20).

GEM will be supplying these car-lings in several models, and the first few delivered included small flatbed pickup-type trucks with a payload capacity of half a ton, as well as 4-passenger “sedans.”   Unlike the fancier, highway cruising EVs that were introduced in the Detroit Auto Show starting today, the GEM vehicles do not use exotic batteries.  No lithium-ion, no NiMH, et al.  The power is much humbler and, well, democratic.

GEM eL, with 6 12-volt lead-acid batteries

GEM eL, with 6 12-volt lead-acid batteries

The standard issue for these vehicles is the traditional flooded electrolyte battery (read lead-acid), with a 30-mile range on a single charge.  The vehicles are priced at $9,000 and $14,000, and all they need for a recharge is an extension cord with a 3-pronged plug.  One of the principal reasons for the adoption of this type of souped-up golf cart is the ease of implementation.  No hydrogen pumps, no complicated recycling, since we already recycle 95+% of lead-acid batteries with a completeness that makes them environmentally invisible.

It couldn’t hoit, as they say, that these vehicles will come from Chrysler, whose CEO kowtowed in Washington recently along with the CEOs of two other vehicle companies from Michigan.  There will be 800 of these little puppies bought this year, and 1,600 each in 2010 and 2011.   As I read it, that is probably a $50 million contract, tidy piece of change in the EV world, where a POSSIBLE contract with a Norwegian firm in the same range was enough to boost a lithium-ion battery company to a mega-market-cap in 2008, and another lithium-ion battery company nearly completed a huge IPO on the same evidence.  PS: the Norwegian firm is gasping for financing and not likely to be a battery buyer any time soon, even if bankruptcy can be avoided.

Look to the well-established lead-acid and advanced lead-acid battery industry in the US to power EVs like these.  That means companies like East Penn (http://www.eastpenn-deka.com/) and EnerSys (http://www.enersysinc.com/);  and innovators like Axion Power (http://www.axionpower.com) and possibly the pre-product Caterpillar spinoff, Firefly Energy (http://www.fireflyenergy.com/).    The best place to look for information may be the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium website at http://www.alabc.org.

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One thought on “Army EV Program to Save Carbon, Bucks — and Boost a Chrysler Division

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