U.S. Marines using electric vehicles in Okinawa, Japan

OKINAWA, Japan - In an effort to save money on maintenance and fuel, the Marines in Okinawa are testing the Nissan Hyper-Mini Electric Car. The HMEC is a 120-volt battery powered vehicle, which costs less then a dollar per 60 miles to operate. This low cost is made possible by the Synchronous Motor, which is powered by four Lithium-Ion batteries. On a full charge, the vehicle can travel nearly 40 miles.

"Since the Marine Corps has to spend a lot of money on fuel for all its vehicles, this investment will be one that help the Corps immensely," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith Reid, base motor transportation fleet manager, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base. "The HMECs will cut costs and the Marine Corps will be able to use the money it saves for other mission related equipment." The vehicle does not require oil, water or antifreeze and the parts are easy to access and replace. Such low maintenance will only continue to save the Marine Corps money, according to Reid.

The body and frame of the HMEC is made of rustproof and lightweight aluminum, which allows the vehicle to travel longer distances. Other standard features of the vehicle include an anti-lock brake system, air conditioning, seating for two people, rear-wheel-drive and a weight capacity up to 400 pounds. The maximum speed for the vehicle is 60 miles per hour per hour.

Safety features of the vehicle include dash-mounted voltage meters for the battery voltage and tire pressure. It also includes dual airbags and run flat tires, which can travel up to 50 miles after being punctured.

"Vehicle safety is always an important factor when experimenting with new equipment," Reid said. "In the Marine Corps, we have to trust our equipment to be safe and dependable to help us with our mission." Nissan engineers also developed the vehicle to be environmental friendly. The batteries do not contain any acid and there is no carbon dioxide.

"The vehicles show the Marine Corps is doing their part to be environmentally safe," said Staff Sgt. Marla D. Edwards, roadmaster, Base Motor Transportation, H&S Bn., MCB. "It's very important for us to take care of the environment in which we live, and this is the Marine Corp's way of helping out." The Marine Corps plans to purchase 27 of the HMECs from Nissan. Marines should start seeing the HMECs around Okinawa by spring 2002. "The new vehicles are such a quality investment for the Marine Corps," Reid said. "It's just another way the Marine Corps is continuing to head toward the future."