Army Unveils Hybrid Propulsion System for New Combat Vehicles

August 22, 2007


Photo of electronic equipment mounted in a tank-like structure, which has motors attached where the front wheels should be in order to simulate driving conditions.

The Army's hybrid system, a cluster of electronic equipment barely visible in the center of this photo, is currently being tested on this rig that simulates the system's use in a ground vehicle.
Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army unveiled its first hybrid-electric propulsion system for combat vehicles on August 15th. The Army is developing and building eight new ground vehicles and plans to incorporate the hybrid system in all eight. The system employs an all-electric drive train with a battery energy storage system and a separate engine that drives a generator to recharge the battery as needed. According to the Army, the main reason for a switch to hybrid systems is the extra electrical power they provide for combat systems on the vehicle (enough to power 300 typical U.S. homes), but the Army acknowledges that the hybrid combat vehicles will also achieve greater fuel economies. Although the new system is still being tested and evaluated, the Army plans to begin production late next year on the first of the new hybrid ground vehicles, which is a self-propelled howitzer. BAE Systems led the team that developed the hybrid propulsion system. See the press releases from the U.S. Army and BAE Systems.

Hybrid technologies are now being incorporated into a number of heavy vehicles. Eaton Corporation is now producing medium-duty hybrid power systems that will be available in 2008 on trucks manufactured by International Truck and Engine Corporation, Kenworth Truck Company, Peterbilt Motors, and Freightliner Corporation. In Canada, Azure Dynamics is producing hybrid delivery vans for Purolator Courier Limited, Canada's largest courier company. Azure has delivered 30 hybrid vehicles to Purolator but has just launched a new hybrid vehicle based on the Ford E-450 van. Purolator has changed an existing order for 85 hybrids to switch to the new hybrid vehicle and has added another 20 vehicles to the order, for a total of 105 vehicles on the Ford E-450 platform. Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is currently testing a new diesel-electric hybrid utility truck that is expected to decrease fuel use by 40% to 60%. Located in northern California, PG&E is one of 14 U.S. utilities participating in the pilot truck program, which is sponsored by WestStart's Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF). The HTUF is a hybrid commercialization project bringing together truck fleet users, truck makers, technology companies, and the U.S. military. See the press releases from Eaton, Azure, and PG&E, as well as the HTUF Web site.