Army Envisions All-Electric Brigades

2 weeks ago by Mark Kane 16

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 fuel cell electric vehicle

While the U.S. Army isn’t yet all that many electric vehicles for daily use, there are currently some ideas being floated around to switch some heavy battlefield equipment to electricity.

M2A3 Bradley (source: DefenseNews)

According to the Donald Sando, the Maneuver Center of Excellence’s deputy to the commanding general, all-electric (and/or hydrogen fuel cell) brigades are coming…and they are coming fast.

“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.”

Sando envisions 75-ton vehicles to be powered by high-capacity batteries (we’d bet on MWh-scale packs) and electric motors. Charging is to be done via 10-50 kW generators.

With that said, Abrams tanks will not be converted to the electric drive – as there is a need to develop a new electrified version from the ground-up.

“Sando pointed to the Next-Gen Combat Vehicle program, a prototyping effort underway at the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. A seven-year, $700 million contract was recently awarded to an SAIC-led team to produce two prototypes by late 2022.

“We need to go to the next-generation squad, and we need to go to the next-generation combat vehicle,” Sando said. “If they’re not electric or hydroelectric, then I’m wrong.””

We are surprised that battery technology has evolved enough to be considered for the electric tanks, but who knows if it will turn into a reality at this point. If the commercial electric truck market takes off as expected in the next few years, then the military certainly isn’t likely to be far behind.

Recently GM presented its autonomous fuel cell truck SURUS:

A rendering of the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) platform with a truck chassis to show the potential of flexible fuel cell solutions. SURUS was designed to form a foundation for a family of commercial vehicle solutions that leverages a single propulsion system integrated into a common chassis.

Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins said:

“In 15 to 20 years, it‘s hard to believe if industry moved in the direction of electric-powered vehicles that the Army would not be somewhere near there. Its brigade combat team consumes 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. We’ve got to think about other ways.”

More military EVs:

Veteran’s Day Model X & Model S

source: DefenseNews

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16 responses to "Army Envisions All-Electric Brigades"

  1. Someone out there says:

    This is an application where hydrogen fuel cells might shine. Having silent(-ish) tanks should be a big advantage and fuel cost is not really an issue. Neither is the risk of explosion – they are already carrying a ton of high explosive devices, if an enemy shot hits the ammo storage or the hydrogen tank would likely not make any difference at all.

    1. POA says:

      Well, the problem is tracks make a lot of noise. So in case of tanks fuel cells won’t make much difference.

      Other issue – finding Diesel or petrol on the battlefield is much easier than finding hydrogen.

  2. ziv says:

    Being able to use local water after it had been filtered and cleaned to US drinking water standards would probably have saved more US and Iraqi lives than electrifying a portion of a deployable support units at the brigade level. The US suffered thousands of casualties to personnel manning convoys that were mainly full of bottled water.

    Now if they could deploy electric powered support vehicles WITH their own solar arrays to generate their own electricity, thereby reducing the amount of convoys needed to keep a brigade fueled (and hydrated with drinkable water) THEN the electrification of support unit vehicles might make a bit of sense.

    But we are talking about a military that has been looking for substitutes for lead bullets, not because the lead bullets were ineffective, but because lead can accumulate in the blood if it is somehow ingested from used bullets.

    1. energymatters says:

      Concur. Atmospheric Water Generators are another solution. Israeli military uses them extensively. Electricity and air in, drinkable water out.

    2. ClarksonCote says:

      They’re not electrifying to save lives, they’re electrifying to simplify logistics.

      The sheer amount of coordination for fuel etc. is enormous in battlefield operations. Any bit of efficiency they can gain is advantageous from a strategic standpoint.

  3. DJ says:

    Sooooooo they don’t want to use gas/diesel in their vehicles anymore but rather use it in the generators to charge the vehicles??

    That seems kind of pointless no? I just don’t really see the whole point of this yet. With the rates that battery tech is improving one of the last thing I want to see is a less than mature product put in to a vehicle that is supposed to have a useful life of decades just so that it can be charged by a gas generator…

    1. Steven says:

      Heat signatures. Used for missile lock and tracking for decades, no longer useful when the tank is as cold as the surrounding area. Instant torque. Ability to function even after chunks have been blown off (modular batteries placed inside the armor as extra armor perhaps?). And yeah, the sound, tanks are LOUD. You could have black ones running in stealth mode at night.

      1. DJ says:

        Ya, I see the good points, but I just don’t know if they’re worth the cons. It’s a hell of a lot easier to just fill the tank up in a few minutes than it would be to charge a megawatt pack. And while the military likes to bring their own fuel you could always fill up on local gas/diesel in a pinch where what happens when your gennie dies or you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere?

        Granted on the heat signature tracking but these days it’s not like there aren’t other alternatives. Who cares if the tanks are loud if you have 100 of them coming at you with Apache’s backing them up 😀

        Again, I can see the pros, I just don’t know if the cons are worth it (yet).

        1. Vexar says:

          Think battery swaps, not recharging combat vehicles. This is where your Alpha unit is maybe an all-electric howitzer, and your Beta unit is an ammo and battery transport. This is also equivalent to having a fuel truck. Also, by moving to an electric transport technology, amazing things can happen, like deploying the SSTAR developed by Lawrence Livermore for forward bases, field grade windmills and solar farms, etc. Suddenly, your war gets a whole lot cheaper.

          When you talk about the war front, you think about rugged. I do consider rugged to be a sealed, 3-phase, linear induction motor for a powertrain, with a battery designed to manage its temperature in any climate. I do not consider rigid pipes at 80 bar filled with flammable gas to be even remotely combat-aware.

        2. Someone out there says:

          That’s one reason I see fuel cells not batteries. A tank already weighs around 60 metric tons, with tracks that has horrible ground resistance. Making the thing move requires a lot of energy and stuffing in batteries to support that would probably weigh another 10 tons if not more. Hydrogen fuel cells are much lighter.

          1. Leaf2012 says:

            But hydrogen fuel cells, tanks and all necessary piping and equipoment arent lighter than batteries. If you compare cars with approximately same amount of passenger seats, cargo space and horsepower you find that hydrogen cars are heavier. Many people only look at the weight of H2 itself and forget the heavy high pressure tanks to accomodate the H2.

            And of i remember correct, even high pressure H2 at 700bar still takes up about ten times as much volume as diesel, and then you have to add the volume of the high pressure cylindical tanks. And increasing the size of an armored vehicle also means increasing weight as the tanks also needs armor.

            It might be lighter with batteries that require less volume and also are easier to build into packs that are easier to locate inside.

      2. Steven says:

        Oh great, another “Steven”.
        This is really going to complicate things.

  4. Terawatt says:

    Have never given this any thought, it’s pretty surprising to me – and therefore interesting. Still think it’ll be more than a decade for this to happen…

  5. Bob says:

    Militaries have been trying to put batteries in thier tanks for a long time for instant torque advantage.

    The German and US army experimented with hybrid tanks (diesel electric/gas electric) in ww2 but the tech wasn’t ready yet.

    1. POA says:

      Not only Jerries and Americans tried “hybrid”. Very first were french during WWI.

      The reason why it never caught on was simple – reliability issues and costs. Probably the most famous hybrid is Pz VI Tiger (P) built by famous Ferdinand Porsche. And it never made into mass production because generators had a nasty tendency to catch fire. Plus, cost of it was much higher than traditional Tiger.

  6. Jim J Fox says:

    Will tanks become obsolete? The ground- based Battleship? Will drones become so advanced to be tank destroyers and support for infantry; will infantry be replaced by remote- controlled robot soldiers? Electrification of heavy armour on remote battlefields does not sound convincing.

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