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Bureau of Reclamation buys 27 e-ride electric utility vehicles for Grand Coulee Dam

The Bureau of Reclamation this fall purchased 27 electric utility vehicles for use at the Grand Coulee Dam. The lithium-ion-battery-powered EUVs, built by e-ride Industries of Princeton, Minnesota, will help meet lower greenhouse gas emissions goals and also solve a chronic vehicle shortage for making short trips around the hydro power complex.

In the last couple of years, Grand Coulee has added about 130 employees. We’re trying to introduce these electric vehicles as a way to offset our current gas fleet vehicles. Grand Coulee spends over $100,000 on fossil fuel each year. We’re expecting to be able to cut that consumption by 10 to 15 percent.

—Matt Tillman, Grand Coulee’s Administrative Officer

Grand Coulee, located in northeast Washington, is the nation’s largest hydropower complex that covers 18 square miles and includes transmission yards, four power plants, and the mile-wide dam itself.

It’s a large power complex and not very far from place to place, but there’s an awful lot of small trips, short trips that employees make each day. That’s hard on vehicles and a poor use of a fossil fuel powered car.

—Deputy Power Manager Doug Anderson

The EUVs are designed to handle a 1000-pound payload and reach a top speed of 25 mph (i.e., Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) with plenty of torque to make it up steep grades around the power plant complex. The EXV4 Patriot is a four-passenger commuter vehicle designed for moving people; the EXV2 Patriot is a two passenger maintenance truck for moving tools and equipment. The EUVs are charged by power from the dam.

Grand Coulee Dam. Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. The dam, which raises the water surface 350 feet above the old riverbed, is 5,223 feet long, 550 feet high, and contains about 12 million cubic yards of concrete.

The original dam was modified for the Third Powerplant by construction of a 1,170-foot-long, 201-foot-high forebay dam along the right abutment approximately parallel to the river and at an angle of 64 degrees to the axis of Grand Coulee Dam.

The total length of the main dam, forebay dam, and wing dam is 5,223 feet. The spillway of the dam is controlled by 11 drum gates, each 135 feet long, and is capable of spilling 1 million cubic feet of water per second with Lake Roosevelt at fullpool (1290.0 feet above sea level). The dam also contains forty 102-inch-diameter outlet tubes. Within the dam are 8.5 miles of inspection galleries and 2.5 miles of shafts.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, the reservoir behind the dam, extends 151 miles northeast to the Canadian border and up the Spokane River, a tributary of the Columbia, to within 37 miles of Spokane. The total storage capacity of the reservoir is about 9.6 million acre-feet, and the active capacity is about 5.2 million acre-feet.

The average discharge at Grand Coulee over a period of years is approximately 100,000 cubic feet per second. On 12 June 1948, during an historic Columbia River flood period, the maximum discharge (turbine and spill) recorded was 637,800 cubic feet per second. The annual volume inflow has varied from a minimum of 48.5 million acre-feet to a maximum of 111.8 million acre-feet. The average annual inflow to Lake Roosevelt is 99.3 million acre-feet. The April through July inflow accounts for 65 to 70 percent of the total annual inflow volume.

Comments

Herman

Once again, the US Gov't throws money around. At about $19,000 and $23,000 retail respectively, the EVX2 and EVX4 products will never earn their keep with fuel savings compared to a simple mass-produced street-legal alternative. The Dam authority could have purchased 20 Chevy Sparks at a USG fleet rate of about $11k each, likely $5-6k less than the e-ride choice at a fleet price. The other seven could have been any number of US-assembled club cab trucks for the same price or perhaps less than the electric alternative. Saving $100k or more on the initial purchase already puts this in the loss category; the surplus value of street-legal cars vs used NEVs pushes it over to "dumb idea".

Engineer-Poet

Who needs surplus value when the vehicle life is in excess of 20 years?

The real savings with the EVs isn't fuel, it's maintenance.  Heavy start-stop use is very hard on an ICEV, and catalytic converters never get to light-off temperature in a duty-cycle of half-mile trips.  These EVs are pretty much only going to need replacement tires for the first umpteen years, and new batteries are going to be a fraction of the original cost by the time they're needed.

Herman

Sorry, E-P. It doesn't wash. I operated three Fiestas for 30 months in an environment of short trips in the upper Midwest. 5 day/week use, about 25 miles per day, numerous (8-10) trips. Other than more frequent changes of synthetic oil, there was no more maintenance expense than any subcompact. The extra $100,000 spent by DoR to acquire the vehicles is never going to be made up, and the fact that all these extra vehicles have zero utility outside of the dam makes them an even greater extravagance.

Engineer-Poet

30 whole months, and you gave the engines several miles to warm up.  Now try that same daily distance with quarter- and half-mile trips for 20 years.  You will buy 3 vehicles instead of just 1.

Herman

Yes, 30 whole months of short trips, extended idling, never warming up in winter, etc., and nary a single problem.

What's going to wear out? Completely replace starter and exhaust system every five years (unlikely but just baseline that). With two oil changes a year using proper lubricant the engines will not be problematic; even if they are the repairs entail only component repairs. Transmissions will undergo little stress, as will the rest of the rolling stock.

You're still way ahead buying the ICE Spark and a baseline club cab truck.

"Buy 3 vehicles"...?

I'm continually amazed that using a battery-powered motor rather than an ICE extends the life of windows, wheel bearings, door latches, windshield wipers, body corrosion, suspension parts... it's astounding that Tesla and now apparently e-ride use some sort of astonishingly wear-proof parts throughout their vehicles while the global auto industry is clueless and uses stuff that won't last. You should let all those people at Tesla Service Centers know that the faulty pano roof seals, tail light lens leaks, seat rail failures, door latch problems are still far less troublesome than the ones suffered daily by ICE drivers. And I need to find out what e-ride's secret is: how does a NEV with 25mph top speed have a structural life 3x that of an automobile homologated to global standards? Is a puzzlement...

And batteries will be HOW cheap? It's highly unlikely you'd ever need a new engine. But even then diligent shopping get a new 1.2L Spark engine for under $2000. The maintenance departments in these huge DoR facilities can do about anything, and dropping in a barely-used salvage engine can be done for less than the price of a brand new 10kWh battery in the year 2025, which at an assembled cost of $150/kWh will cost over a grand.

I am not opposed to any purchase of a NEV by anybody, buy please don't justify this purchase as saving money. Any honest assessment says it won't.

Engineer-Poet

Frequent starts = wearing out starters.
Oil and air filters need changing, and labor to change them.
The cooling system can leak and requires maintenance.

All of these are things the EV doesn't have.  The labor of having to take vehicles for fueling is another factor; the EV can "fuel" anytime it's parked near an outlet, even on the job.

BTW, Tesla is looking at $130/kWh by the end of the decade.

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