Fort Lewis tries out hydrogen cars
SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune
Lt. Col. Ali Hunt buckled in, put the Chevrolet Equinox in drive and pressed the accelerator.
The car rolled forward. No noise came from the engine.
“Wow,” she said. “That was cool.”
After Hunt’s five-minute ride, an organizer from the Hydrogen Road Tour 2009 was quick to remind her that no carbon emissions were coming from the tailpipe either. The nine-day tour promoting hydrogen fuel-cell technology stopped Monday at Fort Lewis, allowing soldiers and employees on post a chance to test drive the vehicles.
An 11-car caravan driving from south of San Diego to Vancouver, B.C., includes vehicles from Mercedes, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Kia and Honda. Two hydrogen fuel trucks accompanied the cars so they can refuel along the way.
Fort Lewis was included as the 22nd stop on the tour because of its sustainable practices, event organizers said. The caravan also stopped Monday in Olympia, Seattle and Bothell.
The event started with the arrival of the cars, many of which were driven by Fort Lewis military and civilian personnel. The post’s garrison commander told a crowd of about 50 people – mostly soldiers, government employees and family members – that the vehicles’ performance impressed her.
“I can’t tell the difference between these cars and my car,” Col. Cynthia Murphy said.
Hunt, a senior case manager with the Warrior Transition Office, said the health of the environment is important to her and that she has long been interested in alternative-fuel vehicles.
With a representative from General Motors riding shotgun, the 54-year-old Lakewood resident drove the streets bordering the post exchange and floored the engine – which produced a bit of a high-pitched whine – and sped down an empty stretch of the parking lot.
“Would I get one if it wasn’t cost-prohibitive? Absolutely,” she said. “If the cost even was a little bit more and the fuel was available, I’d participate to help the greening of America.”
Post officials said a fuel station with hydrogen and other alternatives should be open in about a year and a half. Miriam Easley, Fort Lewis’ sustainability outreach coordinator, said the push for alternative fuels is part of an Army-wide effort to make its vast fleet of vehicles less dependent on carbon-based fuels.
A shuttle bus for members of the Warrior Transition Battalion and 19 forklifts for the post’s logistics center will soon be running on hydrogen fuel, she said, and a wastewater treatment facility will convert methane to hydrogen.
The fueling station also will offer ethanol-based fuel, biodiesel and compressed natural gas.
“The Army is becoming a lot more conscious about sustainability,” Easley said. “It’s a big deal for us.”
Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758
Sustainability on post
Fort Lewis officials have outlined long-term goals to make the Army post more sustainable, including:
• Maintaining the ability of Fort Lewis to meet its current and future military missions without compromising the integrity of natural and cultural resources, on the installation and regionally.
• Creating sustainable neighborhoods for on-post residents.
• Recovering all endangered, threatened and candidate-for-listing species in South Puget Sound region.
• Reducing total energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015.
• Reducing installation source and non-tactical motor vehicle air emissions 85 percent by 2025.
• Sustaining all activities on post using renewable energy sources and generate all electricity by 2025.
• Recycling all material use to reach zero new waste by 2025.
• Treating all wastewaters to Class-A reclaim standards by 2025 to conserve water resources and improve Puget Sound water quality.