FORT BELVOIR, Va. --- The Army recently issued a contract award to rapidly prototype hybrid electric drives into an Army combat vehicle as a key step in scaling-up this widely available commercial technology.
Hybrid electric drives (HEDs), used today in commercial cars, buses, heavy trucks and other vehicles, could significantly reduce Army vehicle costs related to maintenance and fuel consumption, increase reliability, and improve performance, with no added size, weight and power (SWaP) demands.
Under an Other Transaction for Prototype Authority (pOTA) agreement, issued by the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) on July 16 in the amount of $32.2 million, BAE Systems will deliver two vehicles retrofitted with HEDs. The entire effort, from contract to delivery, is expected to take 24 months.
The HED – consisting of an upgraded engine, a transmission replaced by an electric drive motor, and the addition of lithium ion batteries – turns engine power into electricity for greater mobility and operating additional onboard equipment.
“By rapidly prototyping HEDs on a small scale, we can jump-start advanced electrification and hybridization of Army platforms, and encourage our industry partners to invest in these products to meet Army standards,” said LTG L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, who oversees the RCCTO.
With the HED replacing the traditional heavy mechanical powertrain, the design has the potential to provide increased automotive performance, increase survivability by reducing the thermal and acoustic signature of the vehicle, increase acceleration capability, and improve lethality. The Army anticipates reduced fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent, and with a smaller number of parts, vehicles with HED technology should be easier to maintain.
Under the contract, the Army will use the A2 Bradley as the surrogate vehicle. BAE will integrate two HED vehicles, which will then undergo contractor performance assessments, testing and validation, ultimately leading to the transition to Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS). The RCCTO is working closely with PEO GCS throughout the effort.
“HEDs add a high-voltage generator that turns engine power into electricity for greater mobility and for operating additional equipment, both of which increase combat effectiveness,” said Mike Foster, director of the RCCTO’s Rapid Acquisition Prototyping Project Office. “It also offers the ability, because of its electric powertrain, to conduct silent over-watch missions and silent mobility.”
The Bradley is being used because of the small form factor fit of the engine, which is smaller than other tracked vehicles and can then scale-up to be applied to other platforms, including future vehicles.
Once the two vehicles are complete, the RCCTO will conduct additional field assessments on the HED technology with Soldier feedback prior to the handoff with PEO GCS.
The Army RCCTO, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is chartered to develop rapid prototypes and field residual combat capabilities. Its top focus areas are hypersonics and directed energy, but the organization is also conducting rapid prototyping in areas such as the hybrid Bradley, an electronic warfare kit for dismounted threat mapping, and advanced radars.