It’s a strange thing when military planners and environmentalists find themselves seeing to eye to eye. And yet, the latest crop of proposals being considered by the Pentagon to replace their aging vehicles includes a design for a hybrid tank. Designed to replace the venerable M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the GFV (Ground Fighting Vehicle) is a gas-electric hybrid that will save the army on gas and reduce their impact on the environment.
In truth, the GFV is but one of several clean energy alternatives that is being considered by the Pentagon. As far as they are concerned, the next-generation of military hardware will need to take advantage of advances made in solar, electric, hybrid and other technologies. But of course, this is not motivated out of a desire to save the environment, but to save on fuel costs.
With peak oil supplies diminishing worldwide and the only remaining sources confined to geopolitcally unstable regions, the current high-cost of gasoline is only likely to get worse in the near future. What’s more, the Pentagon and every other army in the developed world understands the dangers of Climate Change, with most scenarios taking into account dwindling fuel supplies and wars being fought for what little will be left. Little wonder then why they would consider cutting their consumption!
As for the GFV, the design calls for a large, highly modifiable ground combat vehicle that grew out of years of military and defense contractor studies. Designed by BAE Systems, the engine is the result of collaboration with a number of firms who helped adapt the design of a civilian hybrid gas-electric engine. Compared to competing designs, it presents a number of advantages.
If BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department is expected to save approximately 20% on its fuel costs, compared to an alternate GCV vehicle design that uses traditional propulsion. Additional advantages include the ability to switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time, the elimination of significant heat traces from the battlefield, and the ability to operate more quietly at night.
In a recent interview, BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli further indicated the advantages of the design:
There are also 40% fewer moving parts with higher reliability, requiring less maintenance and decreasing vehicle lifetime cost. Vehicle acceleration, handling and dash speed are improved even over fuel hungry turbine systems. Finally, the system’s ability to provide large amounts of electrical power accommodates the integration of future communications and weapons technology for the next 30 to 40 years.
What’s more, the GFV is capable of undergoing extensive modification, which is a strength in and of itself. With just a few added accessories, the vehicle can work as a tank, hence why it is named a Ground Fighting Vehicle (GFV) and not an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), which is specifically designed to transport and defend infantry.
The vehicle can also be augmented with electric armor, jammers, and experimental energy weapons thanks to the in-vehicle electric power source. Most of these weapons are currently being developed by the military and are expected to be making the rounds in the not-too-distant future. As such, BAE also stressed that their vehicles could be operational for decades to come without becoming obsolete.
So telling when the decision will be made, thanks to the vagaries of politics and the military-industrial complex. However, the scuttlebutt indicates that the odds of the BAE design being adopted are good, and the company spokespeople indicated that the first GFV’s could be rolling off the line by 2020 and fielded by 2022. I guess Prius owners will have new reasons to brag!