Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicle Program Shows Fleet Potential

March 1980, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by AF Staff

The electric vehicle, that slow, silent transporter which faded years ago from the automotive scene almost as quietly as it ran, is making an equally quiet comeback as utility and government fleets experiment with the mode's potential as an alternative in these energy-conscious times.

Perhaps the most-publicized of these projects is the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Demonstration Program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, involving such entities as the Long Island Light Co. (LILCO), Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, and General Telephone.

According to the Lead Industries Association (LIA), the Long Island, New York utility company program involves 12 lead-acid battery-powered cars and vans used in LILCO's fleet. The utility supplies electricity and gas to millions of homeowners and thousands of both large and small industries on the island. The EVs are performing regular service functions and at the same time, they are giving the utility's customers and the general public a close-up look at electric vehicles in operation.

LILCO's EV program predates the federally-funded demonstration project and it was the existence of the program that lead to LILCO's selection as a demonstrator site operator under the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Program. Passed by Congress in 1976, the program calls for approximately 10,000 electric and hybrid vehicles to be placed in commercial service to demonstrate the effectiveness of such vehicles to perform the same tasks as internal combustion units.

The utility's EV fleet includes seven lightweight vans, each powered by 16 six-volt lead-acid batteries and the vans replace conventional cars used for meter reading service. Four two-passenger cars, each powered by eight lead-acid batteries, are performing on-site security patrol, while a heavy-duty commercial van, also classified as a light-duty vehicle because it weighs less than 10,000 pounds, transports personnel and equipment for a team of experts that detects gas pipeline leaks.

With a day duty cycle, the vehicles are recharged at night during non-peak demand periods and proponents of EVs report that increased electric vehicle use can help to balance the load of electrical power-output of utility generating stations.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Pacific Telephone is also participating in the demonstration program and is currently operating about 20 vehicles out of its Culver City, California (Los Angeles area) facility. The Pacific Telephone program is a joint venture between the utility, the DOE and General Motors, whose GMC Truck and Coach Division produced the vans involved in the project. The GMC vans are virtually identical in appearance to the conventionally-powered GMC vans used by Pacific Telephone for installation and maintenance functions.

The battery pack on the vans consists of 36 Delco maintenance free lead-acid batteries mounted beneath the floor of the unit. Weighing 2,500 pounds, the batteries provide 216 volts of power and the vehicle can carry a payload of 1,500 pounds. The drive train includes a 50-horse-power DC series motor with chain drive gear reduction and solid state continuous electronic speed control.

GMC reports that the vehicle has a top speed of 50 miles per hour and a range of 40 miles. Acceleration is listed as 0-30 in 12 seconds. The braking system is vacuum assist hydraulic unit and the vehicle is capable of electric regeneration on braking and deceleration although a company official noted that the capability has not been used yet in the demonstration program. An extra Delco 12-volt battery is used to power electric accessories and the van is equipped with a gas heater for driver confort. A limiting factor in the use of these vehicles for the current program is that the vans cannot be used in areas with greater than a 20-percent grade. Recharging of the units takes approximately seven hours.

General Telephone & Electronics (GTE) has three telephone companies participating in the DOE program and each will operate a fleet of 25 electric vehicles under regular working conditions for three years. The companies are located in Florida, California and Hawaii and the entire program will be coordinated by GTE's Energy Conservation organization at company headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

"GTE's battery-powered vehicles, to be prominently marked with the words 'Electric Powered,' will help the U.S. government stimulate greater public interest in using electric auto-mobiles as a petroleum-saving alternative to the traditionally gasoline-consuming cars," said William C. Rowland, executive vice president telephone operating group. "The field demonstration also will assist the Department of Energy in its program to evaluate the technical and operational characteristics of electric vehicles to determine how well they can meet the needs of commercial organizations such as GTE as well as private users."

General Telephone of Florida will operate 25 mini-vans in Tampa. General Telephone of California will operate 25 quarter-ton pickup trucks in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood and Hawaiian Telephone will also operate 20 of the pickups and five two-door coupes in Honolulu. The vehicles will be used primarily in providing maintenance and installation services for business customer's telephone systems. GTE purchased the 75 electric vehicles, the necessary spare parts and test equipment and will maintain detailed operational records, as well as operating and maintaining the vehicles. Under a cost sharing arrangement, the Department of Energy will pay a total of $631,724 to the three telephone companies over a three-year period. The balance of the project, expected to total about $1.7 million will be funded by GTE.

"The government's field demonstration program is designed to identify and test segments of the automobile market where electric vehicles can be employed to the benefit of the users," Rowland said. "The program is expected to involve some 10,000 electric vehicles when completed in 1986. The program began last year when the first 200 took to the roads."

It is estimated that more than 2,000 electric autos are now in service in the U.S., exclusive of those participating in the Department of Energy test. GTE's 16 telephone companies in the U.S., serving about 14.6 million telephones in 7,500 communities in portions of 31 states, operate a fleet of more than 37,000 motor vehicles.

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