Commercial-led advancements in electric vehicle technology have pushed the Army Futures and Concepts Center to take a hard look at the capability and find ways to integrate it throughout the wheeled-vehicle fleet, the program’s director said.
A draft white-paper proposal focusing on using electric vehicles is in the works, said Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the FCC director, during a recent press briefing. Gen. John Murray, head of Army Futures Command, will be among the first to review the proposal, slated for internal release this summer, Wesley added.
Private and public consumer interest in electric vehicles has seen a substantial increase over the past decade, officials said.
Tesla recently unveiled its first battery-powered semi-truck, illustrating the untapped potential behind this technology, Wesley said. Further, FedEx and UPS have both made significant investments in electric vehicles.
As the world migrates toward electrification, Wesley said there are several reasons why this initiative is essential to the Army’s way ahead.
For starters, integrating electric vehicles could decrease costs, he said. The number of parts required to maintain each vehicle is considerably less than its fuel-consuming counterpart.
Moreover, the prices for internal combustion engine parts will increase as the engine-component supply chain starts to lower its production, Wesley said.
Beyond vehicle maintenance, the Army must also consider the logistical challenges and costs associated with in-theater supply routes, he said. Dependency on fossil fuels continues to be a challenge, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to move fuel across a battlefield.
Electrification could provide an alternative approach and lessen the Army’s overall fuel dependency, he said.
Battery life and recharge time are just some of the many issues the Army must address before moving forward with the program, Wesley said. Soldiers in the field will need access to a reliable power source, and current electric vehicles take a long time to recharge.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense is looking into organic alternative fuel options and considering “mobile nuclear power plants.” These portable power plants are said to be safe for forces to operate and do not pose a risk to their surrounding environment, Wesley added.
A rise in alternative power options combined with improved capacitor technology could extend the life of a battery and decrease charge time. These capabilities could be available in 10 years, based on the current tech trends, he said.
However, program officials have yet to find technology capable of powering the Army’s heavy-vehicle fleet, he said.
Looking ahead, the Army must have a transition plan in place, Wesley added. This plan should include a step-by-step strategy, building blocks to develop requirements and industry objectives to transition vehicles to support force electrification.