Innovative hybrid technology that could offer multiple technical and operational enhancements to military vehicles whilst reducing reliance on fossil fuel is being tested by the Army.
Hybrid experimental prototypes of the Army’s Foxhound, Jackal and MAN SV vehicles have been developed and their performance is being evaluated under a circa £9M million programme which is being led by Defence, Equipment & Support.
The step change will ensure the Army’s electrical infrastructure is ready to meet the electrical demand required on the battlefield of the future. Using hybrid vehicles will make it easier to get the power to where it needs to be.
Lieutenant Colonel Ed Sutthery, a Senior Staff Officer working in Innovation, Research and Experimentation said: “We are conducting an experiment to inform modernisation of the Army using the commercial technology currently available.
“With the demise of the internal combustion engine, we have little choice but to embrace new technologies or we simply won’t have a capability to deploy and by working with the commercial world, we can improve our capability as new technology is developed.”
The next generation of Army vehicles could also be capable of providing emergency power in a disaster zone, powering a field hospital and improve military capability.
Electrification will deliver choice, giving the military the ability to deliver power at the point of greatest need, both on board or off board, and not just to military applications; this could be to support civilian infrastructure for Other Government Departments and possibly supporting Non-Governmental Organisations in areas where the infrastructure to deliver power has been affected.
One hybrid electric MAN SV vehicle capable of producing over 500 kilowatts of power will be able to replace nine generators. This means two and a half hybrid MAN SV vehicles could power an Army Field hospital or provide emergency power to relief teams in a disaster zone.
It is just one of the advantages of the innovative vehicle technology being tested. The hybrid vehicle technology found in commercial cars and buses will ensure the Army’s vehicles remain cutting-edge and capable of operating the latest power-hungry technologies.
It will offer numerous tactical advantages on the battlefield including stealth. In stealth mode the vehicles can be powered by electricity only. This should significantly reduce the thermal and noise signature of the vehicle, enabling it to escape detection as the troops observe or attack enemy forces.
The electric motors can also immediately pick up rapid speed which will be a real tactical advantage when accelerating up steep gradients and escaping the enemy.
“Using electric we can deliver the power at the right moment,” continued Lieutenant Colonel Ed Sutthery. “When driving a combustion engine, you don’t necessarily get power at the split second you need it. Driving in the electric mode, you put your foot to the accelerator and the result is immediate.”
“It means we will be able to drive to places that we are not currently able to go to because the diesel engine simply wouldn’t have the power. Tactically this will give us greater freedom of manoeuvre and we will be able to go to places the enemy wouldn’t expect.
“Soldiers will be able to extract quickly and easily from narrow gaps Rather than complete a three-point turn which is not always possible, the driver switches to electric mode and the vehicle will be able to turn on its own length. Until now only track armoured vehicles were capable of doing that.”
Currently the only power source for soldiers on the ground comes from the loud heavy diesel engines and strong-smelling generators that have to be moved around the battlefield. Combining the combustion engine with electric power enables the vehicles to double as mobile generators which reduces the number of generators required whilst powering off-board equipment, from weapons to mobile phones.
Alongside delivering multiple technical and operational enhancements the Hybrid technology should reduce the Army’s fuel consumption. Adopting greener technology is part of the MOD’s approach to reduce its contribution to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.