Military Applications of Hybrid Cars and Trucks

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With surging fuel prices military forces are re-examining the potential savings of alternative propulsion, hybrid cars and trucks are becoming a reality in the commercial market. “Hybrid-Electric Drive” (HED) systems are promising up to 30 – 40 percent savings, compared to current internal-combustion engines. Typical Hybrid-Electric Drive (HED) systems store regenerative power when braking and using it for acceleration and off-road maneuvering, to augment the main engine. By electronically controlling each wheel, HED systems dynamically manage the drive torque going to each wheel; accommodating any driving condition on and off-road. While HED systems have great benefits in fuel economy, improved performance and weight saving, hybrid cars still challenge users with expensive systems, primarily battery costs and sensitivity due to environmental effects.

The US Army expects hybrid-electric powered trucks and the hybrid-electric Future Combat Systems (FCS) to help the service attain its stated objective of 75 percent lower fuel consumption by 2020. Significant savings have already been demonstrated. Operating as a hybrid, with a 24-gallon tank, a truck could travel 375 miles without refueling compared to a conventionally-powered vehicle, traveling less than 60% of that range. Savings will not relate from the cost of fuel itself, but trim a considerable volume off the army logistical transportation requirements – as fuel takes up about 70 percent of the logistical tonnage haul in a heavy armored division.

When used in combat vehicles, hybrid-electric drives have even more benefits. The acoustic signature can be reduced by moving on electrical power with main engine shut off and the placement of engine exhaust below the vehicle, to minimizing noise signature when the engine is running. Thermal signature is reduced by burying the hot mufflers and manifolds deeper in the vehicle to reduce infrared signatures. When used for logistical support, hybrid electric vehicles can generate enough “exportable” power to run most field equipment currently used by the military.

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