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Posted on July 13, 2010 by  & 

Military Electric Vehicles: An introduction - part one

Attitude of the military

In 2009, the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in the USA issued a report, "Powering America's Defence: Energy and the Risks to National Security". It was compiled by their Military Advisory Board which included 12 high-ranking retired US military officers representing four of the five branches of the US military. Some extracts are shown below:
"In offering our recommendations, we considered a context that will be increasingly shaped by climate change. (We encourage readers to view our earlier report: "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.") The effects of global warming will require adaptive planning by our military. The effects of climate policies will require new fuels and energy systems. Ignoring these trends will make us less secure; leading the way can make us more secure. The challenges inherent in this suite of issues may be daunting, particularly at a time of economic crisis. Still, our experience informs us there is good reason for viewing this moment in history as an opportunity. We can say, with certainty, that we need not exchange benefits in one dimension for harm in another; in fact, we have found that the best approaches to energy, climate change, and national security may be one and the same."
The recommendations for the use of electric military vehicles included the following remarks: "Inefficient use and over reliance on oil burdens the military, undermines combat effectiveness, and exacts a huge price tag—in dollars and lives. Consider a large, slow moving military convoy carrying oil to power the military convoys carrying supplies. The cost and logistics are immense. They are easily picked up due to the heat they put off from burning oil and they are easy targets that once hit, are moving explosives. Electric vehicles reduce the acoustic, thermal and infrared signatures, making the fleets safer."
"Energy use in the battle space is a complex matter and often runs counter to conventional wisdom. A study of the 2003 Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) in Iraq found that only 10 percent of its ground fuel use was for the heavy vehicles that deliver lethal force, including M1A1 tanks, armored vehicles, and assault amphibious vehicles; the other 90 percent was consumed by vehicles—including Humvees, 7-ton trucks, and logistics vehicles—that deliver and protect the fuel and forces. It is the antithesis of efficiency: only a fraction of the fuel is used to deliver lethal force. A different study showed that, of the U.S. Army's top ten battlefield fuel users, only two (numbers five and ten on the list) are combat platforms; four out of the top ten are trucks, many of them used to transport liquid fuel and electric generating equipment."
It was noted that the burden of powering the world's largest military on imported oil is so great, that designing and deploying systems to reduce the burden that inefficient energy use places on our troops as they engage overseas is a top priority, second only to integrating energy security and climate change goals into national security and military planning processes.
The report observed that "Electrification of the military fleet would have a number of benefits. It would drive research and development; it would save money and lives on the battlefield; it would lead in transforming America's energy posture and transportation sector. "We are not just talking about a little bit of money, we are talking about billions. ......... a $10 increase in the per-barrel cost of oil translates to a $1.3 billion increase to the Pentagon's energy costs."
"...each gallon of fuel delivered to an aircraft in-flight costs the Air Force roughly $42; for ground forces, the true cost of delivering fuel to the battlefield, while very scenario dependent, ranges from $15 per gallon to hundreds of dollars per gallon."
General Robert Magnus, USMC (RET.), Former Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps writes compellingly in the report about moving away from fossil fuels. "This discussion has to be about having the smartest and most efficient use of energy to do the military missions," Gen. Magnus said.

70% fuel reduction is targeted

The US Army sees hybrid-electric powered trucks and the hybrid-electric Future Combat Systems FCS as key in its objective of 75% lower fuel consumption by 2020.
This is as much to do with operational flexibility - permitting previously impossible speed of deployments - as cost saving and reduction of pollution. Significant savings have already been demonstrated. Operating as a hybrid, with a 24-gallon tank, a truck travels 375 miles without refuelling compared to a conventionally-powered vehicle, travelling less than 60% of that range.
Primarily, savings do not relate from the cost of fuel itself, but to reduced army logistical transportation requirements - as fuel takes up about 70% of the logistical tonnage haul in a heavy armored division.
In part two we therefore look at military hybrids, a subject independently assessed and progressed by the University of California Davis and others.


Hybrid electric vehicles HEV and fuel cell vehicles FCV are harder to detect than their diesel-powered counterparts because of their lower visible, thermal and acoustic signatures. Hybrids are better able to provide the exportable electric power needed by today's high-tech Army. There are even main battle tanks being developed with hybrid electric drives.

Pure electric

On the other hand, pure electric vehicles are often more reliable, smaller, lower cost for short range applications and they are the hardest to detect because of their lower visible, thermal and acoustic signatures. Polaris pure electric All Terrain Vehicles ATVs were announced for military uses in 2010.
Except for the sound of tires rolling on the ground, the latest generation of Polaris pure electric all-terrain vehicles moves almost silently.

Fuel cell

Fuel cell vehicles can potentially provide large amounts of power but they need fuel delivery and usually a large, sophisticated battery to manage power surges, making them rather like a hybrid in having two power sources and fuel refilling.
They are therefore the least used so far, because in many applications they have the worst of both worlds - the disadvantages of both hybrid and pure electric technology. Nonetheless, work on them is ongoing, more than in the civil sector, where many fuel cell vehicle projects have been abandoned to concentrate on battery technologies.
Image: Polaris ATV
Source: Polaris
Also attend: Future of Electric Vehicles which uniquely covers the whole electric vehicle market - land, sea, air whether hybrid or pure EV - with emphasis on future breakthroughs.
The new IDTechEx report "Electric Vehicles 2010-2020" has a chapter giving extensive coverage of military electric vehicles with ten year forecasts by number, unit value and market value. Electric Vehicles 2010-2020.

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Posted on: July 13, 2010

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