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Land Rover Fitted For Energy concept rethinks battlefield power

As the British Army advances and its electronic capability improves, soldiers are looking to novel power solutions to feed the ever-increasing energy appetite.


Major James Kelly, Officer Commanding of the Royal Engineers Trials and Development Unit (RETDU), is leading a pioneering project to introduce a vehicle-agnostic modification to the MOD’s vehicle fleet, which would allow for energy to be harnessed from a running diesel engine and stored in low profile battery packs. Known as the ‘Fitted For Energy’ (FFE) project, the concept is currently being trialled on a Land Rover WOLF, demonstrating the vast difference in size, heat and sound signature and portability when compared to conventional generators.

The FFE system comprises an ultra-high-performance alternator or ‘e-machine’ that fits into the accessory belt of an engine and harnesses the energy when the vehicle is running but stationary. It then converts and exports it to power military equipment or stores it in a bank of battery packs in the rear of the vehicle. The compact package can produce up to ten kilowatts of energy – similar to a truck-towed generator and more than enough to power a household for an entire day.

Major Kelly introduced the problem behind the concept: “In the British Army, there’s an ever-increasing power deficit, in terms of all this new capability and equipment that we’re bringing to service. The difficulty is how do we meet that demand in terms of producing energy in the field, without exposing ourselves to our enemies through heat, sounds, emissions and all these things. So, we're looking at expedient solutions now, that could plug that energy deficit gap and the Fitted For Energy concept is just one of those methodologies that we could use to meet that problem.”

This is a demonstrator, but it's at a very high technological readiness level. So, I could foreseeably see that within 12 months we could have this capability fitted to a number of our vehicles within service. MAJOR JAMES KELLY, OFFICER COMMANDING, RETDU

RETDU is working with Zero Alpha and Gibson Technology on the system, the latter providing the power generator technology and its systems, and the former responsible for the energy storage solution, the military integration aspects and how to implement the system in the British Army’s vast fleet. Through horizon-scanning, RETDU first became aware of the motorsport-derived technology in mid-2021, before formally launching the project in October of that year.

Commenting on the collaboration with industry on such projects, Major Kelly added: “I think it's absolutely vital – that collaboration with industry, the symbiotic relationship – that's how we make progress. And I think this is a really great example of how Army and UK based technology have come together to produce the concept that is the Fitted For Energy solution.”

Chris Hughes is training and support lead for Zero Alpha. Himself a former soldier, he offered an on-the-ground perspective of how the equipment would be used:

“Soldiers would initially deploy with stored energy. So as soon as you get somewhere, you don't have to set up generators, you don't have to find a power source, you don't have to worry about making sure you bring enough diesel for your generators. And then with the aid of the screen in the cab of the vehicle, you see when the energy gets to a certain level, it will tell you that it needs to be charged.

“You turn the engine on and using the e-machine you just push all the energy back into your storage systems.”

Major Kelly expanded on the benefits that soldiers would see on the battlefield: “The concept offers many things. I think the first one to consider is that we're moving less around the battlefield, so potentially attracting less attention from all the sensors that are going to be out looking for us. We can move into position really quickly and we've got that power on instant tap so we can drive in, turn the vehicle off and we know we've got a sustained period of energy in a region of 7 to 8 kilowatt hours (kWh), which is the average consumption of a UK daily household. And we know that we can run that silently.

“As a comparison the current generator set up would last about 12 to 14 hours - before needing to run the engine or a field generator to top up the batteries. With this modification, we're looking at approximately 72 hours plus of silent capability before we would need to run the engine. So, in turn that reduces the need for resupplies. So, we're moving less fuel around and therefore moving less people around on a battlefield. We're able to remain dispersed. So, all this kit is really enabling the future technology that we're bringing to service to actually survive on the battlefield.

Sustainability is another key factor in the development of the FFE concept. Major Kelly estimates that by harnessing power from the diesel engine and paring it with a battery storage system such as this, fuel consumption could be reduced by about 60%. Potentially adding renewable energy into that mix where the tactical scenario dictates could provide another saving on top of that.

Logistically, when it comes to moving vehicles around the battlefield, removing the need to tow a heavy generator trailer could provide up to a 25% reduction in overall fuel consumption.

Importantly, this is a far more achievable development than full hybridisation or electrification of the Army’s vehicle fleet. The FFE system is a relatively inobtrusive system that can be retrofitted across the majority of vehicles currently in service. But when could we actually see this technology on the battlefield?

Major Kelly mused: “So, this is a demonstrator, but it's at a very high technological readiness level. So, I could foreseeably see that within 12 months we could have this capability fitted to a number of our vehicles within service.”