The U.S. Army proudly showed off its new Clandestine Electric Reconnaissance Vehicle (CERV) at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week, and let’s just say that on looks this diesel-electric hybrid can’t compete with eye candy like Toyota’s new FT-CH Prius concept. But, at least it gets you where you want to go – with a 25% reduction in fuel consumption.
As the owner of the world’s largest fleet of vehicles, the U.S. Army is on an all-out drive to adopt sustainable new fuels and hybrid technologies to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The CERV is just one part of a U.S. military research and development program that includes energy storage, power and thermal management, robotics, and survivability as well as vehicle design.
The U.S. Army and Hybrid Electric Vehicles
It can’t be emphasized enough: according to our own U.S. Army, the whole “drill baby, drill” mentality is so 2000-and-late. As the Army sees it, the problem is not our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, it’s our dependence on fossil fuels, period. If this is news to you, that’s probably because the media coverage has been low key, but the Army has been trying to get the word out in a variety of other ways. For example this past fall the Army co-hosted the Hybrid Truck User Forum in Atlanta to discuss the benefits of hybrid technologies (pdf), including how reducing fossil fuels would result in fewer Army vehicles on the road hauling fuel, and fewer soldiers placed at risk on the road. They also discussed how soldiers could operate more effectively in “austere environments” when freed from the constraints of conventional fossil fuel supply.
The CERV Diesel-Electric Hybrid
All right, so it looks like a mash-up of various IKEA shelving units, but the CERV can do 80 mph and climb grades of 60%, thanks to its all-wheel-drive diesel hybrid electric powertrain called Q-Force, developed by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. The CERV was a joint effort between Quantum, TARDEC (the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center), and the U.S. Special Operations Command. It also features a lightweight chassis that gives it high torque rating for its class (torque refers the strength of rotation around an axis).
Off-Road Vehicles and Diesel Electric Hybrids
It seems that at least for passenger cars, trucks and buses, the public is accepting that the future will run on more sustainable vehicles. Aside from familiar names like the long-awaited Chevrolet Volt and the Prius, brands like Volkswagen and Mercedes are diving into the hybrid pool. With its push for hybrids, the U.S. military is also opening up the doors to public acceptance of more sustainable off-road vehicles, even for heavy duty equipment like diesel-electric hybrid tractors. That includes ships, too; for example, the Navy’s first hybrid electric assault ship saved 900,000 gallons of fuel on its first maiden voyage alone.