A long-standing mandate set forth by the Department of Defense to military contractors that has been receiving much more attention these days is the obtaining of higher fuel efficiency. To meet this goal, the military is developing hybrid Humvee alternatives that if successful may find applications in the mainstream market.
It should be noted that troop safety and a vehicle’s ability to withstand the rigors of battlefield conditions rightfully trump any cost-cutting measures. As a result, improvements for vehicles and their drivetrains with respect to fuel efficiency progress slowly and with many challenges. However, military operations depend on a fleet of vehicles in non-combat situations, for instance, to simply move personnel around bases. In many cases, the battle-ready Humvee is still used in these situations when a lighter, less rugged vehicle would suffice. WIth this scenario in mind, one such vehicle has been developed for the Army by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, which uses a hybrid vehicle chassis that can be fitted with multiple bodies to replace a variety of Humvees, Jeeps, armored vehicles and pickup trucks. The vehicle is powered by a small, three-cylinder diesel engine and two hybrid motors. It would cost about $20,000 to manufacture and could replace a $65,000 Humvee. The vehicles are expected to get about 50 miles per gallon, compared to the Humvee’s current 11 mpg. Like the Toyota Prius, the prototype vehicle minimizes fuel use by running exclusively on the electric motors at low speeds or when idling. The Army designed the vehicle for easy repair by providing unobstructed access to the engine, electric motor and drive train. The batteries are located in the center of the chassis beneath the vehicle for easy access. The vehicles are less expensive than other hybrids because of the smaller diesel engine that can fit in an 11-inch-by-14-inch package. Quantum designed the vehicle so that the diesel engine could be easily removed from under the hood and used as a mobile 5-kilowatt electric generator. Researchers are also investigating a remote-controlled, driverless version that could move supplies in dangerous areas. Vehicles produced by the military have become adapted to become popular consumer models in the past, and the new hybrid platform could also make that transition.