January 19, 2010
The US Army is going green. Specifically, it is looking for ways to reduce the amount of fuel needed to run its vehicles. While the rest of us debate global warming and hybrids versus SUV’s, the Army has already declared that gasoline is so yesterday. It operates the largest fleet of ground vehicles in the world and it knows that getting fuel to all those vehicles takes thousands of supply vehicles that require heavy security from ground troops during hostile operations. It estimates that 50% of all casualties in Iraq are related to protecting fuel convoys, so reducing the amount of fuel used is critical to the Army being able to accomplishing its mission.
Recently, the Army opened a new technology center called the Ground System Power & Energy Laboratory (GSPEL). Located in Warren, Michigan, the center is in the heart of the American automobile industry and close to the companies that will build the vehicles of the future for our military. It consists of 8 laboratories dedicated to increasing energy efficiency, using more renewable resources, utilizing local power sources, and enhancing the Army’s ability to protect America in an uncertain future. You can read more about the Army’s Sustainability Vision on its website.
At last week’s Detroit Auto Show, the Army showed off is latest creation, the Clandestine Electric Reconnaissance Vehicle (CERV) featuring a diesel/hybrid powertrain that uses 25% less fuel. It is also quieter in all electric operation, making it possible for solidiers to infiltrate and monitor hostile terrain more safely. The CERV uses a diesel engine because diesel fuel can be manufactured locally from biomass, eliminating the need to transport gasoline from refinery to foreign theater of operations and then on to the troops in the field. The CERV can also be recharged from local electrical sources.
The US military has decided that energy dependence on foreign countries is contrary to its primary mission of defending America. Rather than wait for the civilian market to come up with products it can use, it has made it a priority to lead the way toward a sustainable future. The Navy recently placed its first hybrid powered electric assault ship, the USS Makin Island, into service. The new propulsion system saved nearly a million gallons of fuel on its maiden voyage alone.
The mililtary is also in the forefront of the search for the “missing link” in hybrid and electric vehicle performance – a light weight, inexpensive, American built battery that is reliable and environmentally friendly. Despite all the hoopla we read in the press about plug-in and electric vehicles, the truth is that they are currently just too expensive to attract the number of buyers needed to have a significant impact on the nation’s environmental and fuel economy goals. The Army is spearheading the Advanced Automotive Battery Initiative in collaboration with academia and industry to find the solution to this knotty problem. The benefits that electric vehicles promise to society will only become a reality when and if this search is successful.
Source: Gas 2.0 Photo of the CERV from prwebphotowire.com under a creative commons license.
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