The short answers are ‘yes’, ‘it depends’, and ‘not all of them right now’. But it’s not the only technology being explored.
Press coverage and social media could have you believe the electric vehicle revolution is only about cars.
All vehicle types have been under the zero-emissions microscope for years. Buses, trucks, and ships; even aircraft, farming machinery and implements.
That’s the magnitude of the need to reduce global emissions.
It’s so great it’s driving vast changes throughout the global automotive industry.
It’s also changed how some consumers use their cars. You can see it with early adopters of EVs.
Current-day EV battery technology has necessitated changes in driving behaviours for many of these owners. Trip management to plan recharging stops and deciding when to drive is now a regular part of their car ownership experience.
But what happens when the usage situation doesn’t allow for such accommodations?
Military vehicles are a great example. Australia’s defence forces have specific uses for the vehicles they buy. Their fleets comprise a wide array of vehicle types. Some resemble regular new-car models (like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon) while others are so unique they look strange to civilians.
Either way, they all have jobs to do and those jobs are typically done in difficult conditions.
And it’s these tough conditions that make pure EV technology both useful and challenging to integrate.
At this time, EV tech probably wouldn’t suit all military vehicle applications. Our own military vehicle engineering work, most recently with military vehicle powertrain development, confirms that. But alternative powertrain options could play a role.
Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology is an option. Hydrogen as a combustible fuel is another. So are simple diesel-electric hybrid systems.
The answers are already in Australia
Australia has every necessary capability to apply EV technologies to military vehicles.
Australia-based Thales has earned globally recognised success with the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle and the Hawkei Protected Tactical Vehicle.
Other local specialist companies have their fingerprints on many advanced military machines.
The know-how is already here.
EV-related military vehicle development programs have been reported for some time.
Just because EV tech might not be an ideal solution for all mil-spec vehicles right now doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued, a fact on-highway heavy trucks are showing right now.
Earlier this year IVECO announced it will produce and market its Heavy-Duty Battery Electric Vehicle (up to 500 km range) and Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (up to 800 km range) under its own brand.
Volvo recently announced an example of its FH Electric just made Australia’s longest ever journey for an electric truck, a trip of 1,185 km (about 736 miles) from Brisbane to Canberra.
Australia’s various states and territories are reported to be reviewing heavy-truck regulations relating to weights and widths to ensure the country is ready for the arrival of electric trucks in everyday traffic. It’s great to read authorities are helping to create the right conditions for these heavy-commercial EVs.
Unfortunately the military doesn’t have that luxury. They have to adapt their hardware for the conditions and rules of warfare, not the other way around.
But EV tech is developing quickly, faster than the internal combustion engine’s advancements at the turn of the 20th century.
Better, different and smaller EV battery designs, longer single-charge driving ranges, and quicker recharging times are slowly appearing.
For now, EV tech might not be the best answer for every type of military vehicle but in time it will make its way in. And once it’s in regular use it will probably feel like it was always there.
Bernie Quinn – Engineering Director, Premcar Pty Ltd
About Premcar – Premcar Pty Ltd is a leading Australian vehicle engineering business that specialises in the automotive, defence and aerospace industries. For more than 25 years, global car-makers have made Premcar their go-to partner for the complete design, engineering and manufacture of niche-model new cars, full-scale new-vehicle development programs, and electric vehicle (EV) conversions and manufacturing. As the name behind more than 200,000 new cars and 55,000 new-vehicle engines, Premcar’s body of work is extensive and has delivered technical and sales success for major car brands from Europe, the USA, Japan, China and Australia. Visit premcar.au.
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