TRADEC Evaluates 6T Li-ion Batteries for Military, Commecial Vehicles

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Drop-in 6T Li-ion battery from Navitas Systems. Photo: Navitas Systems
Drop-in e6T Li-ion battery Saft, originally developed for military vehicle applications, is now being tested on commercial vehicles. Photo: Saft
Drop-in e6T Li-ion battery Saft, originally developed for military vehicle applications, is now being tested on commercial vehicles. Photo: Saft

CALSTART, a member supported organization that specializes in clean transportation technologies is evaluating the use of military 6T Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery technology in commercial vehicles. The purpose of this effort is to apply recent advances in Lithium-Ion introduce drop-in replacement for traditional lead-acid batteries currently used in commercial and military vehicles. The 6T standard Li-ion based 12V and 24V 6T batteries are promising to provide significantly improved power and energy densities over existing lead acid alternatives. The three battery companies participating in the CALSTART-led test are Navitas Systems LLC, EaglePicher Technologies and Saft. CALSTART will assess the efficacy of the new batteries in operations in hot and cold weather, testing on Class 8 highway trucks. During the testing process CALSTART will be collecting the data generated from the three battery manufacturers. The field testing activities are designed so that the prototype battery technology can achieve a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) level 6.

Drop-in 6T Li-ion battery from Navitas Systems. Photo: Navitas Systems
Drop-in 6T Li-ion battery from Navitas Systems. Photo: Navitas Systems

Saft announced today it has delivered CALSTART its e6T Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, designed for use in military and commercial applications. This development marks the first time the military e6T Li-ion battery configuration will be tested for commercial trucks application, opening a potential new market for this advanced power supply, far beyond the military applications it was originally designed for. Saft said The agreement also includes delivery of 28V e6T power supplies to TARDEC, the U.S. Army’s Tank and Research Development and Engineering Center.

In 2013 Saft was selected by Lockheed Martin for the delivery of e6T Li-ion battery systems for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Program. In the military configuration the e6T Li-ion battery system features an advanced, lightweight design within the dimensions of a traditional lead-acid battery, enabling easy integration into the vehicle. The system provides power for starting, lights and ignition, as well as for silent watch missions, while also providing critical front-line power to recharge personal electronics like night sights and GPS devices. The 25.5V battery features CANBus communications technology which relays vital information such as state-of-charge, cell voltages and temperatures, and battery diagnostics. For commercial vehicles the battery is also available in 12V versions. 

“Lithium-Ion battery technologies promise to hold out better in the field,” says CALSTART President and CEO John Boesel. “In its own testing thus far, the military has found that lithium batteries last longer, resulting in fewer battery replacements and less need for inventory. If these field tests prove successful, the commercial trucking industry may, in the future, make the switch to lithium starter batteries. Higher production volumes would result in lower prices, benefiting both the military and commercial sectors,” Boesel says.

The the U.S. Army is funding the program, in which CALSTART and participants will evaluate and test 12V Li-ion military format batteries as starter batteries. Compared to lead-acid batteries, Li-ion technology enables increased lifecycle, depth of charge and faster recharges, resulting in greater fuel and cost savings. The Army anticipates that with larger market volume, the cost of military batteries will also drop.