US Army examines the potential of electrifying its ground vehicles

The US Army is looking into the possibility of adding electric vehicle technology to its fleet of wheeled vehicles. The subject of a draft white-paper proposal by the Army Futures and Concepts Center (FCC), the hope is to simplify maintenance while reducing the logistical problems connected with fossil fuels.

According to FCC Director Lieutenant General Eric Wesley, electric vehicle technology has made great strides in the past decade, going from a low-performance niche curiosity to high-performance supercars and battery-powered tractor/trailer rigs. As a result, the US Army is showing interest in such advances as a way to help it with its ever-increasing logistical problems.

Currently, the Army is dependent on large vehicles powered by internal combustion engines to move personnel and materials to the battlefield. But such engines are extremely complex with many parts that could become more expensive as the demand for fossil fuel engines falls and production is cut back. In addition, such complex engines are difficult to maintain.

Worst of all, conventional engines mean moving tonnes of fossil fuels across the globe and to the battlefield – putting commanders at the mercy of very long and very vulnerable logistics chains.

The hope is that electrification could be one way to overcome these limitations. Electric motors have few components, are relatively easy to maintain, and battery ranges have improved significantly. Unfortunately, the technology also has its drawbacks. Batteries take a long time to recharge and have a short service life. Worse, while fossil fuels cease to be a problem, electric vehicles still need a power source that is reliable and within a reasonable distance.

To deal with the latter problem, the Army says that the Office of the Secretary of Defense is looking at several alternatives, including the development of mobile nuclear power plants to generate electricity. Meanwhile, the battery problem could be overcome by new capacitors that could extend battery life and reduce charge times.

According to Wesley, the prospect of an electrified Army is still at least a decade in the future. Powering the service’s heavy-vehicle fleet with batteries still isn’t practical and much of the desired technology is far from mature. That being said, the white paper, which is due for internal release in the middle of the year, will address the strategy for making the transition, as well as laying out how to develop requirements and industry objectives to electrify vehicles.

Source: US Army