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Motor Age Tips When Army Green Means Something Else

One of the most dangerous missions our service men and women face is in the delivery of fuel to remote outposts. These lumbering caravans make easy targets for insurgents and we’ve all seen the carnage caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The development of hybrid and fuel cell technology not only provides military ground vehicles with increased range and capability, they reduce the need for these dangerous missions and according to one military source “a mere one percent improvement in energy efficiency would mean 6,444 fewer soldiers would have to participate in fuel convoy missions”. With the help of some new friends at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), I was able to learn about some of the projects currently being worked on.
But first, exactly who and what is TARDEC? Headquartered at the U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan, TARDEC is the nation’s laboratory for advanced military automotive technology and serves as the Ground Systems Integrator for all Department of Defense (DOD) manned and unmanned ground vehicle systems. With roots dating back to World War II, TARDEC is a full life-cycle, systems engineering support provider-of-first-choice for all DOD ground combat and combat support weapons, equipment and vehicle systems and is made up of both military and civilian experts. TARDEC’s staff of technical, engineering and scientific professionals lead cutting edge research and development projects in Ground Systems Survivability, Power and Mobility, Ground Vehicle Robotics, Force Projection, and Vehicle Electronics and Architecture. All of these projects focus on improving the effectiveness of our nation’s ground forces while keeping our soldiers safe.
FED Alpha And Bravo
Research into hybrid drivelines was only part of the equation that TARDEC designers were charged with. Improved efficiency is not only measured by miles per gallon but what the vehicle can do in the field to support our ground troops and how safe it can keep them in the case of an enemy attack or accident.
Posted Image The FED Alpha achieved a 70% improvement in fuel efficiency. Courtesy: TARDEC
One of the early prototypes was the Fuel Efficient Demonstrator (FED) Alpha. “Light” by military standards (11,650 pound truck with a 2900 pound payload), the Alpha featured a Cummins 4.5 liter 4-cylinder common rail diesel engine said to produce 200 horsepower and 560 lb/ft of torque (they don’t have to worry too much about emissions). It’s coupled to a 30-kilowatt 24-volt starter/generator for power production and that can put a big load on the engine at low rpm, so a small overdriven supercharger is mated to the turbo-equipped diesel. The supercharger is only used at low rpm and disengages as the engine reaches turbo operating range. The electric power is needed because of all of the accessories and tactical equipment fitted to the platform. Power delivery to the drive wheels is accomplished through an Aisin six-speed automatic similar to the unit used in the Ram Chassis Cab.
Built around a blast shielded aluminum monocoque frame, it measures roughly 17 feet in length, 71/2 feet wide and 7 feet tall. It carries 4 fully equipped soldiers riding in blast-attenuating seats. Ride quality is provided through air springs with titanium coils fitted inside to minimize ride height loss if a bag is damaged. Spring control is handled by Koni FSD shocks and the terrain challenges are met with composite wheels fitted with Goodyear Unisteel 335/65R22 tires.
TARDEC testing put fuel economy for the FED Alpha at 7.1 mpg during urban mission use, 4.8 mpg on cross-country missions, and 12.6 when performing convoy and tactical idling (using a half a gallon of fuel per hour). And while most of us would cringe at those numbers from our personal vehicles, even if we did own a monster 4x4, the FED Alpha actually achieved a 70% improvement in overall fuel economy.

Posted Image The FED Bravo added a hybrid system to the FED Alpha and the ability to export electrical power for field use. Courtesy: TARDEC
The following year, TARDEC displayed the FED Bravo at the SAE World Congress. The Bravo incorporated hybrid drive technology that the Alpha didn’t have, and was also designed with the ability to export electrical power – enough to handle the electrical needs of a small command post or base if need be. The Bravo is powered by a Ford 4.4 liter, twin turbocharged V8 diesel rated at 268 horsepower coupled to a six-speed automatic connecting to the rear drive. The front drive is powered solely by an electric motor/generator that is used to recharge the lithium ion battery during braking (regenerative braking). It is also equipped with automatic start-stop like most hybrids to conserve fuel and is capable of going electric only for short distances. Further efficiency improvements were gained from using ceramic brake rotors (rather than steel) and by combining the braking and steering hydraulics into one system. The Bravo’s fuel economy is estimated at 8.2 mpg in urban environments (that’s military for city driving) and 14.2 mpg on paved highway.
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The CERV uses electric drive and can go silent (electric only) for up to 12 miles. Courtesy: TARDEC
The CERV, or Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle, is a joint project of TARDEC and Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies. It was designed for quick-paced surveillance and target acquisition missions. This diesel/hybrid platform can maintain speeds of 80 miles per hour and climb 60 percent grades – the ultimate dune buggy!
Power is supplied to the wheels through a 100-kilowatt drive motor and is entirely electrically driven. The Ford 1.4 liter Duratorq engine drives a 50-kilowatt electric motor/generator used to keep the 380-volt lithium-ion battery pack charged and to feed the electric drive. The CERV can operate in electric-only mode for 5-12 miles with the engine off. I guess that’s why it’s a “clandestine” ERV!
Its overall size allows it to fit in the back of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. There’s room for three seated soldiers with a fourth standing to man the .50 caliber M-2 machine gun, and it has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. It’s relatively light, too, weighing in at 3,500 pounds. Range is approximately 300 miles with its internal fuel storage but that can be doubled with the addition of external tanks.
Posted Image The ULV is not intended for deployment, but for research that will impact future designs of light tactical military ground vehicles. Courtesy: TARDEC
How about a Humvee-sized vehicle with the survivability of a larger transport, mated with the fuel efficiency of a hybrid drivetrain? That’s what the Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV) prototype was designed to do. From concept to build in only 16 months using commercially available materials, the ULV is one of TARDEC’s newest projects and was designed to meet these Department of Defense goals: 4,500 pound payload capacity, under 14,000 pounds curb weight, and occupant protection at least equivalent to the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle. Three prototypes were built, with two assigned for mobility, mine blast and ballistic survivability testing while the third was moved to TARDEC’s Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory for mobility and fuel efficiency testing. The ULV is not intended as a future replacement for the Humvee or for the Joint Light Vehicle Tactical program, but instead will be a research platform that will shape the design of ground vehicles in the foreseeable future. “It’s all about sharing the data,” said Mike Karaki, ULV program manager in a TARDEC press release. “If we have an ability to share the data internally within TARDEC, and externally within the program managers and program executives offices, and beyond that with other government agencies, we will attempt to do that. It’s helping shape and inform future programs.”
Posted Image Looks normal, but this cab is actually fitted with everything needed for autonomous operation. Courtesy: TARDEC
The ULV uses a hybrid powertrain that drives the front and rear axles with electric motors mounted in the center of axle and directly coupled to a conventional differential (only one is needed for propulsion, adding redundancy to the powertrain in the event of damage). The elimination of the driveline allows engineers to improve blast shielding in the underbody of the vehicle. A Subaru Boxer (horizontally opposed 4-cylinder) turbocharged diesel provides the power to the 200 kilowatt motor/generator, feeding a 380 volt lithium-iron phosphate battery pack rated at 14.2 kWh and capable of providing all electric drive for approximately 10 miles if needed. A liquid adaptive suspension system with 18 inches of travel keeps the 40x14.5R20LT Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ radials on the terrain. Inside are the latest command, control, communications, intelligence, and surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. “We tried to push the envelope in terms of state-of-the-art and out-of-the-box materials throughout the entire development process,” said Karaki.
Posted Image Bet you won’t see an EPA sticker that looks like this one at your local dealership! Courtesy: TARDEC
Remote-mounted and controlled electronics improves space and reduces HVAC loads. Occupant safety is enhanced through the improved blast protection allowed by the electric-only drive and by designing in seven different points of entry/exit. “Clamshell” doors open away from the B-pillar to offer protection to soldiers as they exit the cabin. Further protection from attack is provided by a floating floor design that acts as a crush zone between the occupants and the steel hull and newly developed ceramic armors that also aid in overall weight reduction.

Posted Image The electric only drivetrain means better underbody protection for our soldiers from IEDs, and reduced risk by reducing the need for fuel supply convoys. Courtesy: TARDEC
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Nearly two years ago, in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Army unveiled a fleet of 16 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that were tested in an effort to find ways to reduce the dependence on petroleum fuel sources. This past December, TARDEC hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off its newest hydrogen fuel cell testing program in partnership with General Motors at the U.S. Army Ground System Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL in military lingo). The event highlighted the already numerous Cooperative and Research Development Agreements (CRADAs) aimed at furthering the overall mission of improved fuel efficiency and reduced energy dependency. “Through CRADAs, such as the one with GM, the Army has the opportunity to leverage its research and development efforts with industry,” explained TARDEC director Dr. Paul Rogers in the press notice. “A goal of TARDEC is to demonstrate battlefield fuel reduction to reduce the logistical burden on our warfighters…and will assist in maturing and accelerating technologies critical to the Army’s future ground vehicle platforms.”
Unmanned Vehicles
If you’ve been keeping up with our reports on autonomous driving, it should come as no surprise that the same concept is being applied to military applications. What better way to handle the most dangerous of logistical operations (keeping the troops supplied) than by removing the troops from the vehicles entirely?
That’s the thinking behind the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS). Developed jointly by TARDEC and Lockheed Martin, the concept of driverless convoys was demonstrated at Fort Hood, Texas earlier this year. The system is designed not only for long distance, open road missions but is also compatible with the challenges of an urban environment.

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There are no drivers in any of these trucks…and that means no lives lost to enemy attacks or accidents. Courtesy: TARDEC
In testing, driverless vehicles were able to navigate a variety of hazards and obstacles including pedestrians, road intersections and traffic circles, oncoming traffic and passing vehicles. The vehicles themselves aren’t what are special. It’s what is added that makes the system work. Each vehicle is equipped with a high performance Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) sensor system and second Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. The system equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, could be used on virtually any military ground platform.
Initially awarded an $11 million contract in 2012, Lockheed Martin developed the multi-platform kit integrating low cost sensors with both Army and Marine tactical vehicles to enable autonomous operation in convoys. The result is not only improved safety for our military men and women; it also helps move the military toward an end goal of totally autonomous warfare.
Similar AMAS algorithms are also used in the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS), a distinctive six-wheeled platform that has been successfully used by troops in Afghanistan. Robotics, integrated and actual, are helping to relieve the burden of supervisory and mundane tasks from soldiers in the field under combat conditions, allowing them to focus on keeping themselves and their fellow soldiers safe.
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