Trucks at Work

On the attack … with hybrids

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Our new generation powertrains are ideal to support tactical operations in both urban and un-urban environments across the broad range of U.S. military operations and terrain profiles, for direct action, reconnaissance, and unconventional warfare and counter terrorism.” –Alan Niedzwiecki, president and CEO of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, discussing the capabilities of the company’s new Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) at the Chicago Auto Show

Since the founding of the U.S. Army on June 14, 1775, its mission has been and continues to be a very simple and direct one: to fight and win our nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrums of conflict. It’s a mission summed up in the Army’s short yet determined three-word motto – “This We’ll Defend.”

Yet there’s another ongoing battle today’s Army is fighting as well, one of an internal nature: how to gain greater efficiency so it can perform its many functions with less cost and less exposure to harm for the men and women serving within its ranks.

To win that particular struggle is why the U.S. Army is knee-deep in a variety of efforts to help foster the development of a wide range of hybrid combat vehicles.

[The reason hybrid technology is of such importance to the U.S. Army can be gleaned from the video below, crafted to honor the 10th anniversary of the Hybrid Truck Users Forum or “HTUF.”]

One such “combat hybrid” made an appearance last week at the Chicago Auto Show, courtesy of the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center or “TARDEC” for short: the Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) developed by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide.

While it might not look like much, it is combat vehicles like these that the U.S. Army believes will allow it to not only keep fulfilling its mission, but do so at lower cost yet with -- at times -- greater capability than comparable petroleum-only powered equipment.

According to Quantum, CERVs are lightweight, diesel-electric hybrid prototypes with a top speed of 80 mph. Designed for reconnaissance, targeting and rescue missions, CERVs can operate silently on just battery power alone for up to eight miles – and the ability to operate silently can often mean the difference between life or death for scouts on the battlefield.

[TARDEC, by the way, isn’t just testing vehicles for combat operations. Check out some of the many robots it's working on to help keep human life out of harm’s way on the battlefield. One word of advice: Be patient with this video as there is an annoying “test pattern” at the beginning you need to get through.]

The company added that its “Q-Force” all-wheel drive diesel hybrid-electric technology combined with a light-weight chassis produce torque in excess of 5,000 foot-pounds, giving the vehicle the ability to climb 60% grades. Its light weight also enabled it to be certified for internal transportation in aircraft (thus ensuring speedy deployment to hot spots anywhere around the world).

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Most importantly, Quantum said its CERV consumes up to 25% less fuel compared with conventional vehicles of comparable size. That’s critical not just because of the potential cost savings, either, as a recent U.S. Army energy security task force report noted that a 1% improvement in fuel economy results in 6,444 fewer “soldier trips” to support fuel convoys. Thus, better fuel economy means less risk to life and limb for the everyday G.I.

Right now, Quantum noted that its CERV is being tested in various environments around the country as the finishing touches are being put on the Army's newest lab, the 30,000-square-foot Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab (GSPEL), which will open April 11.

GSPEL, by the way, is designed to serve as the “cornerstone” for the next generation of power and energy initiatives for the U.S. Army; initiatives that include the design of more fuel sipping combat vehicles powered by a range of energy options.

Let’s hope, also, what comes out this and other Army labs down the road may also one day be applied to commercial trucks, to help make them more efficient as well.

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