While some Republican lawmakers may not understand the need for weaning the military off of fossil fuels, generals and engineers get the volatile nature of this finite fuel. This has every branch of the military exploring ways to replace or conserve fuel whenever possible, and the U.S. Army is considering a “lightweight” hybrid truck to replace the Humvee in combat operations.
I put lightweight in quotations because, tipping the scales at a hefty 14,000 pounds, the Army’s Ultra Light Vehicle doesn’t sound so light. But compared to big bruisers like the MRAP, which weighs more than 58,000 pounds, the ULV is a downright featherweight. Developed by the U.S. Army Tank Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the ULV also boasts a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain that allows the ULV to better serve and protect its passengers.
The ULV can be run on EV power alone, allowing for “stealth” missions where a loud diesel engine could give away soldiers’ positions. With a pair of electric motors driving the rear wheels and the diesel engine powering the front, the ULV also eliminates the need for a driveshaft and transmission tunnel.
This flat-bottom design allows for a better explosive-resistant crushable floor, while high-strength steels and composite materials keep the curb weight comparatively light. The on-board battery pack and diesel engine can also combine to be used as a portable, armored generator. Similar ideas have been proposed for other military hybrids, including the SAFT hybrid APC. Each ULV would cost about $250,000, though so far just 3 prototypes have been built.
While fuel economy wasn’t mentioned, the Army considers anything getting more than 6 mpg downright frugal, and the ULV might even break into the double digits. With the military spending as much as $400 a gallon to get fuel to remote outposts, and needing to send constant convoys on dangerous resupply missions using even more fuel, it becomes a snake-eating-its-tail scenario.
But efforts by the researchers to employ more alternative-energy and fuel-saving projects in combat theaters should lead to a leaner, meaner, and more self-sufficient military. Eventually, much of that technology could filter down to the consumer level, much the same way GPS devices and drones have become more commonplace.