by Tina Casey
The US Army is working on a more fuel efficient, lightweight and protective multi-purpose vehicle to replace its notoriously outdated Humvee, and we’re shocked — shocked! — to learn that the new prototype features an all-electric drive. The new vehicle, called ULV (Ultra-Light Vehicle) primarily uses diesel fuel to power its electric motors but it can also go a few miles exclusively on its battery pack. Wow, Rush Limbaugh is going to have a field day with this one given his long record of slamming of electric vehicles, particularly GM’s Chevy Volt gas-electric hybrid.
Like the ULV, The Volt can run exclusively off its battery pack as well as its gasoline tank. So, let’s see what Rush has to say about the Army’s newfound friendship with electric drive vehicles.
Although Rush is still ranking on electric vehicles at every opportunity, as far as we know he has had nothing to say about the ULV (yet), so let’s fill a little space for him.
In a broadcast last year, transcribed on his website under the headline “Electric Vehicles and the Wussification of America,” Rush had this to say about EVs:
It turns out the internal combustion engine means more to freedom, liberty, economic advancement than any electric car ever will! The electric car is the product of cowards.
Wow, way to support our troops, Rush. The Department of Defense is up to its elbows in cutting edge EV projects, and the ULV is just one example. EV-to-grid systems are another, including a new $20 million EV-to-grid demonstration project involving 500 fleet vehicles.
Another example is Los Angeles Air Force Base, which has set a goal of transitioning 100 percent of its non-tactical fleet to EVs (LA AFB is also an early solar power adopter, btw). The Navy has also established a pilot project for EV readiness at its facilities that includes solar powered EV charging stations as well as new EV charging stations at on-base convenience stores.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are also coming into the picture. Just take a look at the new fuel cell collaboration announced by GM and Honda, factor in GM’s partnership with the US Army on an FCEV fleet in Hawaii, and you can see the potential for widespread adoption of FCEV technology by the Department of Defense.
To sum up, the Department of Defense has been vigorously pushing for the US military to transition out of fossil fuel dependency as a matter of national security and troop safety, and EVs are already a major factor in that transition.
The Ultra-Light Vehicle And EV Technology
The Defense Department has been introducing portable solar power into combat zones, so it’s not that much of a stretch to project into the foreseeable future, when other cutting edge energy technology, including plug-in EVs and FCEVs, find their way into active zones as well as stationary bases.
Two factors are driving the Department of Defense inexorably toward renewable energy and EVs. One is the increasing load of electronic gear borne by both ground troops and vehicles, creating new demands for more flexible, efficient, lightweight, portable and scavenge-able forms of fuel as well as more effective energy storage systems.
Another factor is the piecemeal, localized nature of combat in arenas such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where remote bases and rough terrain demand the use of more up-to-date energy supply logistics than the creaking, hazardous, centuries-old fuel convoy (to say nothing of the air drop, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the ULV prototype. The project comes under TARDEC, the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, in partnership with the military armor solutions company Hardwire (also known as the maker of bulletproof whiteboards, but whatever).
In a curious bit of timing, TARDEC announced the completion of three new ULV prototypes last week, while in the middle of redesigning the website for the project, so aside from TARDEC’s press release there’s not much available online as of this writing. However, you can still find a great rundown of the ULV in TARDEC’s Accelerate publication (see page 28 at the TARDEC zmags link), and there is also a cache of the old material here.
Billed as the “world’s toughest hybrid,” the ULV is designed to provide improved protection for occupants as well as fuel efficiency, which TARDEC describes as “mission critical.”
The electric drive factors into the protection goal by eliminating a lot of extra hardware, especially underneath the vehicle, which enable blast mitigation technologies to deploy with minimal interference.
As for the drive itself, there are two electric drive motors, one in front and one behind, each of which can independently power the vehicle. Each motor is coupled directly to a differential, driving planetary geared hubs. Here’ s the goodies from the cache:
The planetary geared hubs keep weight to a minimum by reducing the half-shaft torque requirement, keeping each traction motor centrally located between each wheel set, and providing high drive efficiency. The engine/generator “gen-set” mounted in the front provides the continuous power, while the battery mounted in the rear provides power surge and energy storage capability. The combination offers power redundancy, as only one energy source is required for motion, and the battery is capable of moving the vehicle on electric power alone (capable of 10+ mile range on battery alone).
The next step will be to shake the three prototypes down. One is going to undergo rigorous testing at TARDEC’s brand new Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory, which was designed with a focus on electric vehicles, alternative energy and energy storage technologies.
You too, Rush.