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.
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.
In 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 35 mph General Motors vehicle. The EVs use an 8 station charger that is solar powered.
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.