Army Research Lab Hopes to Build a Better Battery or Fully Electrified Fleet

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At the United States Army’s Ground Vehicle System Center, battery research programs aim to transition Army transportation to hybrid and fully-electric vehicles for quieter and longer operations between charges.  The bigger hope is that this eventually increases operational flexibility and, perhaps, remote weapons system controls.

Laurence Toomey is the branch chief for the energy storage team at Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC).  He explains that some tactical vehicles can be easily upgraded to full electrification. Furthermore, he say the team believes hybridization of the tactical fleet could be done by 2035 with full electrification completed as early as 2050.

Of course, the service is going to have to work at this process incrementally, beginning with upgraded some ground vehicles to Lithium-ion batteries.  Between 80 and 90 percent of the current fleet use a NATO standard power source as well as lead-acid 6T batteries.  The GVSC wants to replace these with a similar 6T Lithium-ion version, which wil take some time; and expense.

Specifically, Toomey notes, they are hoping to facilitate a longer silent watch.  Effectively, the concept is to be able to turn the engine off in order to execute longer duration missions but without the typical heat and noise signatures, specifically from the engine. This will also allow the introduction of the primary hybridization strategy, which really is anti-idle.

That said, a lot of this is still a bit up-in-the-air.  For example, Toomey concedes that they are primarily focusing on developing a common module that they can scale to whatever platforms become available (because they don’t actually have any platforms, yet).

Also, Toomey advises that this project is going to be quite costly.  As a matter of fact, the team has great concern that “trying to meet the most aggressive tip-of-the-spear type of applications for those combat platforms” will be complicated; and any project that is complicated at its outset—especially one of this magnitude—always ends up being expensive.

Of course, that expense will depend on which batteries they need to develop: and that depends on the size of the vehicles that need them.