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Militaries plan Electric & Hybrid Land Vehicles (EV/HEVs) to improve stealth, logistics, efficiency and emissions

Transport is responsible for around 23% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally. This is expected to double by 2050. Motor vehicles also put a burden on society, especially in urban environments where they are chiefly responsible for noise and air pollution. Electric vehicles (EVs) have been considered as critical technology for addressing the concerns about energy cost, energy dependence and environmental damage. Electric cars bring nice driving experience in form of instant acceleration, quieter and smoother driving experience, cheaper to run as well as cheaper to maintain, and also has environmental benefits.

 

EVs are becoming increasingly economical without subsidies as well as due to their extremely low operating costs and declining sticker price. However, lack of appropriate technologies is one barrier for EVs to become mainstream particularly including the  technologies that could help cut costs and significantly increase battery life. Changing to a vehicle which may need several hours charging before it can go anywhere and may only be able to travel 200 miles before it needs to be plugged in again, a challenge.

 

Large vehicles powered by an internal-combustion engine may have proven capabilities in a wide variety of conditions but electric vehicles are closing the gap at lightening pace. This is probably why the US military is reportedly considering inducting battery-powered combat vehicles in the times to come even if there are some vital creases that need to be ironed out. Proponents of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for the military say the technology can offer lower-cost power sources, greater performance and quieter, stealthier operations.

 

EV/HEVs are also predicted for large growth in military. The move towards electrification of battlefield, combat and army vehicles is seen as strategic, especially from the logistics point of view. Given that military vehicles need to move through remote areas, maintenance of fossil fuel-powered vehicles is more challenging than electric vehicles. Further, carrying fuel for vehicles run on fossil fuels requires a huge convoy and increases susceptibility towards attacks, especially aerial. When considering Army maneuvers, one key objective is minimizing the number of trucks carrying materials to the battlefield. Switching to electric would have battlefield advantages such as lower maintenance overheads. Electric vehicles are less complex mechanically, easier to maintain, and have lower failure rates.

 

Current transportation fuels used today, diesel, JP8 and biodiesel clearly have the highest volumetric energy density. And this is the most important measurement, as supply trucks generally “cube out” before they “weigh out.” The importance of this is readily apparent when you consider that transporting an equivalent amount of energy using cooled liquefied or compressed hydrogen would require four to seven times as many supply trucks compared to the current fuel of choice, JP8.

 

Hybrid propulsion (i.e., an internal combustion engine coupled to battery storage, power electronics and an electric drive system) is close to ideal for ground combat vehicles, providing improved fuel efficiency, extended range, faster acceleration, exportable power, silent watch and quick refueling – albeit with limited-range silent mobility.

 

Armed forces are keen to leverage the significant advances being made in hybrid and E-drive propulsion technologies in the commercial sector. Highly efficient E-drive technologies could reduce logistics chains and fleet running costs, most obviously by decreasing the amount of hydrocarbon fuels required by a military force. Replacing a traditional engine, transmission, and driveshaft system with batteries also increases reliability, reducing the requirement for spare mechanical parts and thus shrinking the logistics chain further.

 

Another key advantage of this technology is its potential to aid mobility, with in-hub electric motors from companies such as QinetiQ enabling vehicles to move quicker with near-instantaneous torque as well as be more maneuverable with features such as individual wheel control. This also aids survivability, with silent running that does not give away the vehicle’s position. However, the employment of electric vehicles in battlefield conditions requires the development of safe and secure charging options. One of the options is wireless charging.

 

“Army’s brigade combat team consumes 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. We’ve got to think about other ways.” According to US Military, the reductions in the Department’s need for energy can improve warfighting capabilities, such as increased range, better endurance, longer time on station, and reduced requirements for resupply. Improved energy performance also can reduce the risk and effects of attacks on supply lines and enable tactical and operational superiority.

 

Another driver behind the American military’s move to clean sources of energy is climate change – a threat that military leaders continue to warn policymakers is very real and will impact the military, whether it’s responding to natural disasters or responding to conflicts caused by scarce resources.

 

“America’s military has always been on the cutting edge of technological advancements and has been able to implement plans for efficiency. More energy-efficient vehicles not only greatly help our environment by decreasing Co2 emissions, but also reduce costs without impacting the ability of our men and women that defend our country to be successful. Reducing Co2 emissions is the single biggest step we can take to reduce the threat of climate change and sea-level rise, and common-sense solutions such as using zero-emissions vehicles where possible is a major step forward,” said Rep. Rooney.

 

US Army has launched a number of studies on this technology, some internal; one as part of a $32 million project with a British defense company; and one jointly with Japan. Interestingly, Israel also is considering the use of hybrid propulsion for its Merkava main battle tank.

 

US Army’s vehicle electrification plans

“The Department of Defense is the largest consumer of fuel in the country and maintains a sizable fleet of non-tactical vehicles on installations across the United States and its territories. While DOD has made progress in decreasing its petroleum fuel consumption, more can be done to reduce costs, improve efficiency and resilience to fuel shocks, and limit negative environmental impacts,” said Rep. Cisneros. “Today, I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with Rep. Rooney that will significantly reduce the DOD’s reliance on petroleum. Replacing older vehicles with those that are zero-emission, like electric vehicles, will save money, improve efficiency and resilience, and reduce the Department’s overall carbon footprint. We need to invest in 21st Century technology today in order to prevent the damaging effects of climate change on our future.”

 

The US military purchased 92,400 electric vehicles for non-tactical purposes according to report. Navigant Research says the military will invest around $2.4 billion towards integrating hybrid (HEV) and plug-in electric (PEV) vehicles into its fleet.  According to Electrek, Lt. General Eric Wesley, head of the US Army’s Futures and Concepts Center reportedly told Breaking Defense in an interview that battery-powered trucks being developed by the likes of Tesla show enormous promise and could pave the way for EVs to join military duty. He is learnt to have said that with a move towards electric vehicles, prices of conventional vehicles could rise owing to fluctuations in prices of parts. “Tesla is building large trucks. UPS and FedEx are starting to buy vehicles to learn how they move into that area. The entire automotive industry is migrating toward this idea of electrification, and there’s a lot of good reasons for it. And as the entire industry goes to electrification, the supply of internal combustion engine parts is going to go down, and therefore prices are going to go up,” he is quoted as saying.

 

One program the service is pursuing is the electrification light reconnaissance vehicle, or eLRV. Mike Sprang, project manager at the joint program office for joint light tactical vehicles, said the eLRV is an emerging requirement and the service is providing industry feedback as it moves forward. “We’re really in that learning phase right now … of what is in the realm of possible relative to commercial industry and where they’ve taken electrification, and how can electrification fill a military requirement,” he said.

 

Tactically, electric vehicles accelerate quicker, run cooler, and move quieter than internal combustion ones – advantages that are all especially valuable for stealthy scouts like LRV. They can also run power-hungry high-tech systems, from sensors to lasers, without needing a bulky auxiliary power unit. Logistically, even if the Army has to recharge its electric vehicles from diesel generators, that would actually get more miles per gallon than putting the same fuel directly into an internal combustion vehicle, because electric motors are much more efficient. So electric power could reduce dependence on long supply lines and vulnerable convoys of tanker trucks, which are prime targets for adversaries ranging from Taliban irregulars to Russian missiles. Army and NATO wargames have shown some alarming vulnerabilities in the fuel supply.

 

We’d like to see an Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle by FY25,” said Maj. Ryan Ressler, who’s leading the effort for Army Futures Command. “We would like to see all electric vehicles by 2040,” he said. “There might be potential to have all electric vehicles in the near term, if industry can help.”

 

“In 10 years, some of our brigade combat teams will be all-electric, that’s a generational change. It’s significant; and we’re going to do it; and we’re going to need industry’s help. There’s plenty of people who say we can’t do it,” saidDonald Sando, the Maneuver Center of Excellence’s deputy to the commanding general. Sando referenced the Next-Gen Combat Vehicle program, which is currently spending $700 million on two prototypes made by a SAIC-led team at the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. Sando is suggesting that the prototypes could end up being electric.

 

Lt. General Wesley admits that charging an electric vehicle may not be a simple task, especially during active missions. It is not like a charging point is everywhere and the vehicle can be conveniently plugged in under heavy gunfire. He adds however that with technology advancing, many of these concerns are likely to be addressed. “Battery costs have gone down precipitously over the last 10 years. Recharge times and range (have been enhanced). The trajectory that all of that is on, in the next two years, it’ll be far more efficient to have an electric vehicle than internal combustion, so we’re already, I would argue, late to the need.”

 

The range of application for electric combat vehicles could be far and more varied than their counterparts making use of conventional fuels. One of the biggest advantages could well be that an EV operates silently and can contribute enormously in stealth missions. Also, with advancements constantly being made in autonomous drive capabilities, the future could well see soldiers making use of self-driving electric combat vehicles in hostile territories for purposes like surveillance, supply and transport.

 

TARDEC has been working to overcome hurdles related to electric and hybrid-electric vehicle technology for 25 years, he noted. “We covered electrical inverters, DC-to-DC converters, power distribution, both high voltage and low voltage [and] low-voltage energy storage,” he said. Cybersecurity was another area of interest, he added.

 

“We’re coming out of the other side [on] … closing some of these gaps,” he said. Key ones that have been evident for some time are size and thermal limits associated with the power electronics required for mobility. However, silicon carbide — a wide-bandgap switch that can be used in high-temperature applications — has enabled the organization to make systems smaller and withstand excess heat, he noted. “We now have devices in hand that are working and [we] are confident that we’re going to be able to produce those units to provide the kind of power densities that we need to be able to package inside of a combat vehicle,” McGrew said.

 

Andrew Holland, chief operating officer and director of programs at the American Security Project, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said advancements in battery technology will help make electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for the military a reality sooner than later. “Even two years ago, I would’ve said, ‘Oh, electric vehicles are really for non-tactical applications. … The batteries are really too heavy, and I don’t think it will be in sort of combat tactical use for many, many years,’” he said. But the landscape has changed since then, he noted.

 

“Batteries are getting better and cheaper, faster than people expected,” he said. New chemistries mean they will be much more energy dense and easier to charge, he added. “That kind of takes away the issue with … the tactical problem,” he said. Electric motors offer the military a number of advantages, including the ability to forgo a centralized engine, he said. Instead, the Army could have numerous engines, including one for each wheel.

 

However, while electric vehicles offer the Army many benefits, there are also hurdles that must be overcome, Tim Goddette, program executive officer at the Army’s PEO for combat support and combat service support noted. “There are limitations based on military-unique requirements for off-road mobility and the weight of the vehicle,” he said. “Each of those contribute to less efficiency in an electric type of capability.” Electrification modifications might weigh down platforms and it could be a while before such technologies could be integrated into heavier vehicles, he said.

 

The service will demonstrate the technology on its family of medium tactical vehicles in the 2022-2023 timeframe, with integration testing planned for fiscal year 2024. To test those concepts out in practice, he added, “we’re looking at other potential candidates for electrification right now.” High on that list is the Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) being built by GM Defense, an air-droppable light truck designed to carry airborne troops from their drop sites to the objective. Electric vehicles’ innate stealth and reduced dependence on fuel supply would be particularly valuable to paratroopers, who operate on the ragged end of long supply lines. There’s already been work done on an electric Infantry Squad Vehicle. “An electric prototype representative of the ISV proved it could be whisper-quiet, achieve sprint speed immediately, and offered excess power for extended silent watch mode exceeding current objectives,” according to an Army Futures Command white paper.

Hybrid technology is being tested by the British Army in two of its armoured vehicles as a way to improve sustainability and enhance stealth capabilities. A spokesperson for MoD says the hybrid engines will improve the army’s stealth abilities as they can run almost-silently compared to the diesel-only models. The Jackal 2 mobile weapons platform and the Foxhound protected patrol vehicle will be refitted with the new hybrid systems – with testing starting in November 2020.

 

Prototype hybrids of each vehicle are being built as part of a £3 million investment from the Ministry of Defence to find ways to reduce its carbon footprint but no specific details have been revealed for the individual costs of the vehicles. The vehicles will keep their diesel-driven internal combustion engines along with batteries and electronics for the first prototypes, but that could change in future versions.

 

The MoD said the vehicles self-charge from the diesel engine, which runs a generator providing electricity to the battery, so don’t need to be plugged in. Offering improved silent mobility, hybrid and electric systems provide sustainability benefits and deliver potential military advantages, an MoD spokesperson said. ‘Electric systems will also provide game-changing power off-board, while increased power onboard will allow the vehicles to operate the latest technologies,’ they added. The innovative hybrid electric-drive system will be developed by Coventry-based NP Aerospace along with General Dynamics UK, Supacat and Magtec. They will develop prototypes of the Foxhound and Jackal 2 vehicles to test the new technology with the possibility of it being rolled out more widely in future.

 

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) had released an initial request for information (RFI) to evaluate hybrid and fully-electric drive technologies for its fleet of wheeled platforms, with the aim of eventually demonstrating the emerging technology on an in-service vehicle. The December 2018 RFI said the programme’s first phase would include a “capability investigation” into electric drive (E-drive) technologies, leading to a follow-on phase 2 that would concentrate on risk reduction and demonstrating the maturity of the automotive technology on an existing vehicle.

 

Objectives for the programme include reviewing the applicability of different E-drive configurations on various platforms and identifying benefits and constraints, such as susceptibility to electronic attack. The MoD will also investigate commercial off-the-shelf components and their suitability for military vehicles. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is expected to lead the initial study into E-drive technologies, including developing a preliminary model for “assessing E-drive platform performance”. Phase 1 work will also include recommendations on what in-service vehicle would host the technology and an initial design for the demonstrator.

 

Phase 2 is expected to demonstrate a hybrid E-drive vehicle at Technology Readiness Level 6 at a minimum and provide a testbed for investigating the power trade space for a military E-drive vehicle. This trade space analysis will look at power generation and management requirements, the balance between power and storage, the “robust provision” of high levels of drive and electrical power, and the vehicle’s range when running solely on electrical power.

 

During the trials, the MoD will evaluate whether an E-drive platform can provide efficiency and performance benefits when compared with a conventional platform. Trials planned in phase 2 are also likely to generate data to validate future performance modelling, as well as highlight risks in areas such as performance, integration, and operational use. A phase 3 effort could then follow, which would include detailed reviews of different hybrid drive configurations, enabling systems and technologies, exploitation opportunities, and identifying where further military-specific risk reduction is required. This phase is also expected to provide recommendations for an E-drive solution for a Future Ground Combat Systems (FGCS) Mobility Demonstrator

 

Military Vehicle Electrification Market

Military Vehicle Electrification Market is estimated to be valued at USD 4.8 billion in 2020 and projected to reach USD 8.6 billion by 2025, recording a CAGR of 13.0% and USD 17.6 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 15.4% in terms of value.

 

Drivers

The Military Vehicle Electrification market is being driven by the rising demand for autonomous military vehicles and increasing oil prices and emission regulations. Hybrid and fully electric vehicles offer alternatives to power solutions.  The Military Vehicle Electrification market is developing further as the concept of alternative sources such as batteries and fuel cells.

 

Power and energy requirements on modern military land vehicles are continuing to increase due to the higher amount of electronic equipment, leading to increased demands on vehicle battery technologies. Traditional lead-acid batteries used in vehicles have reached the limits of their performance capabilities in these applications, leading to the development of alternative battery technologies. The li-ion battery technology has become one of the major secondary battery technologies across a wide range of applications. This is due to improvements in various aspects including electrode materials and cell design.

 

Military vehicles installed with a high amount of electronics require a large amount of electrical power, which is expected to significantly limit battery capacity as capacity tends to reduce at higher rates of discharge. Future generations of military land vehicles are also expected to benefit due to the use of similar batteries to ensure commonality across mixed vehicle fleets and ease i upgrade. In terms of the ability to improve silent watch endurance, Li-ion batteries offer significant opportunities in battery technology. They have higher specific energy, energy density and cycle life compared to lead-acid batteries.

 

Electric vehicles might reduce the Army’s dependency on liquid fuels, improve signature management through silent operations, and supply exportable power. Countries all around the world are pouring money into electric military vehicle R&D in order to improve their military hardware’s stealth, speed, and power. Every year, electronic warfare takes on new dimensions, and hardware electrification is a must-have for many armies looking to gain a tactical advantage over their opponents.

 

In June 2020, BAE Systems was awarded a contract worth USD 32.2 million by the Army rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) to deliver two HED vehicles consisting of upgraded engines, a replaced transmission electric drive motor, along with the addition of lithium-ion batteries to power onboard vehicle equipment.

 

Restraints Limited range of military electric vehicles

The internal combustion engine has been a dominant technology since the history of automobiles. Due to the scarcity of fossil fuels and environmental concerns, the future of electrical vehicles is promising.

 

Electric vehicles have found a place in the commercial market but have not been able to establish their position in the defense sector. Electrical vehicles have been in the military sector for a long time but have limited capabilities and purposes for the regulations of army camps and personnel vehicles. This is due to the challenges faced because of the limitations in the range available in the defense sector.

 

The range has also been a challenge for commercial vehicles which can be overcome with the right solutions and services that are available. The battery life, charging facility, and on-the-go charging facilities are required to be developed.  For military vehicles / unmanned systems, this is a major challenge required to be overcome as the above are operated on different terrains and are on the battlefield in critical missions which can be compromised as also the life of the personnel. Even the cost of replacing a battery pack is significantly high. All the unmanned systems used for stealth and surveillance missions are highly dependent upon the batteries. Industry players need to invest increasingly in R&D activities to increase the range and charging capabilities which may create a barrier to the growth of the electrification market of military vehicles.

 

Military electric vehicles thus far used in the defense sector are for mobility purposes (Polaris – GEM), transport of military logistics, and unmanned systems. Later, the trends led to the development of infantry squad vehicles using the hybrid electric drive, namely, Hummer, Chevrolet Silverado ZH2, after which the light utility vehicle by the Millenworks was introduced. Though are significant numbers of electric vehicles in the defense sector, there is a need to broaden the range and should be open to various design plans, enabling various industry players to enter and provide an increasing number of options. For the military, the rational reasons to increase energy efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel used are not related to price, they are about the tactical benefits and efficiency offered which is required to be noted by industry players and offer in the market accordingly.

 

Segments

Based on operations, the autonomous/semi-autonomous military vehicle segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The requirement of autonomous vehicles that help in reducing human loss and increasing capabilities are helping the growth of the market for Autonomous/semiautonomous military vehicles.

 

The military sector has traditionally been ahead in the development of Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology and has been experimenting for decades. The key driver for AV technology from a military perspective has always been the safety of troops. By preventing troops from entering high-risk environments and having robots or autonomous vehicles carry out tasks such as resupply or reconnaissance help reduce the number of casualties. Governments are spending millions of dollars to equip their fleet with hybrid and electric Military Vehicles.

 

The Asia Pacific Military Vehicle Electrification market is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The growth of the Asia Pacific Military Vehicle Electrification market is primarily driven by increasing focus on increasing expenditure on the procurement of military vehicles by major economies in this region. In addition, factors including increasing geopolitical tensions and increased defense-related expenditure are expected to drive the demand for Military Vehicle Electrification in the region.

 

Some of the leading companies, include General Motors (US), General Dynamics (US), Arquus (France), Oshkosh Corporation (US), BAE Systems (UK), and Textron Systems (US).

 

 

 

References and Resources also include:

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/11/07/us-military-to-spend-2-4-billion-on-electric-vehicles-by-2020/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8646565/British-Army-trials-hybrid-powered-military-vehicles-improve-stealth.html

https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/military-vehicle-electrification-market-55451533.html

 

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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