Th US Army’s ground vehicle research lab is working on a collection of new batteries meant to properl the service towards hybrid, and eventually, fully electric vehicles. This aims to give soldiers more operational and flexibility in the field and could eventually power weapons system.  

A lab official has recently described how the service is in the early stages of a multi-decade journey to add hybrid and fully electric vehicles into its fleet, in part to reduce its climate impact, but also because of electric power’s operational impact. The service’s recent climate strategy laid out plans to hybridize the service’s tactical fleet by 2035, with fully electric vehicles targeted for 2050. 

“As we start to go into our tactical vehicles, we believe that those can be electrified pretty easily in that 2050 period of time,” said Laurence Toomey, branch chief for the energy storage team at Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC). 

The service will begin by upgrading Lithium-Ion batteries for some of the ground vehicles. Currently Army vehicles are powered by lead-acid 6T batteries, common to of its fleet and a NATO standard power source, according to Toomey. The GVSC is finalizing a 6T Lithium-Ion battery that would replace the lead-acid versions. 

The operational benefits of that effort, he said, are the Lithium-Ion batteries allow for “extended” operations with the engine off. The battery will also improve anti-idling capabilities, which allows the on-board electronics to still function while the engine is off. 

“What they want to do there is they want to facilitate longer silent watch,” Toomey said. “They want to turn the engine off and conduct longer duration missions without the heat signature and a noise signature from the engine. It also allows us to introduce the first step of our hybridization strategy and that really is anti-idle.” 

The challenge of using 6T Lithium-Ion batteries is its lower voltage and difficulty cooling, which limits it to lower energy options.  

The MHV program is targeting a range of 50 to 600 volts and is focused on the next generation combat vehicle program. Toomey said that the program is focused on creating a modular, common battery for the Army’s future vehicles. 

To find more affordable options, the Army, partnered with the Navy and Defense Innovation Unit, and turned to the commercial automotive industry that’s already invested in the high-voltage batteries needed for the larger combat platforms.  

That effort, called JumpStart for Advanced Battery Standardization, is looking at how the commercial battery technologies can be packaged to meet as many of the military requirements as possible. 

 Instead of militarizing the commercial battery itself, Jumpstart is also exploring strengthening the batteries’ enclosure within the vehicle to address survivability. 

According to the GVSC’s energy storage roadmap, the plan is to start the new battery program in 2023. The program states that the program will run from FY23-27 and will down the road become fully electrified.