The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced that McMurdo Station received two electric vehicles to help test whether the research station can move away from a dependence on diesel trucks. If the vehicles can handle the tough conditions at the remote station, they’ll help offset current fossil fuel use and pollution.
Transporting vehicle fuel to Antarctica is expensive, resource intensive, and requires a lot of planning, while both wind and solar (at least, for half the year) are plentiful on the ice. Moreover, McMurdo Station is considered a pristine research environment and anything that can be done to reduce pollution without jeopardizing operations would be helpful. Therefore, the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs is working with NREL and the Department of Energy to incorporate more renewable energy and efficiency practices into current facilities.
As part of that effort, NREL researched and tested e-ride Industries’ EXV2 electric utility vehicle. The units were chosen because the truck-like bed and larger utility-style tires more closely resembled the pick-up trucks currently being used. NREL subjected the vehicles to sub-zero temperatures and, after being assured they functioned as expected, outfitted them with insulation and battery heaters and sent them by boat and transport plane to McMurdo.
Since landing on the ice in February, the vehicles have been used on a daily basis, logging more than 70 hours and nearly 140 miles. The real test lies ahead, during Antarctica’s bad weather months. The vehicles will then be subjected to brutally cold conditions. “Empirical data on the capability of the vehicle batteries in such cold is critical,” NREL Senior Task Leader Ted Sears said. “As a result, we are trying to learn everything we can about how the vehicle systems operate and respond in the extreme cold. Despite the vehicles being equipped with battery warming devices, there are still going to be limitations on their capabilities.”
McMurdo isn’t the only facility looking at whether renewables can reduce fuel use. Remote locations the world over would benefit from similar vehicles. Currently these places have to ship fuel in at great cost.
Read more about the project on NREL’s website.