The US army has its sights set on all-electric tanks

The electric vehicle movement is not limited to cars, planes and flying cars. In a few years, tanks will be electric too.

“In 10 years, some of our brigade combat teams will be all-electric,” said Donald Sando, Deputy to the Commanding General, at the Association of the US Army’s annual meeting on Wednesday, in a panel discussion hosted by Defense News.

Sando works at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, which predicts what the army will require in future for soldiers individually and the force as a whole. He says the move to electric vehicles is not only likely to happen, it’s necessary.

“It’s significant; and we’re going to do it; and we’re going to need industry’s help,” Sando said. “There’s plenty of people who say we can’t do it.”

Last week the army kicked off a prototyping scheme, to develop what it calls its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). It awarded an industry contract worth $700 million (£530 million) to build two demonstration vehicles by 2022. The wining team consisted of SAIC, Lockheed Martin, Moog, GS Engineering, Hodges Transportation and Roush Industries.

The new vehicles will replace the current M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. “We need to go to the next-generation squad, and we need to go to the next-generation combat vehicle,” Sando said. “If they’re not electric or hydroelectric, then I’m wrong.” 

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This would not be the first electric vehicle designed for combat. Last year General Motors reaveled an electrical autonomous vehicle, called Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure, or SURUS. This uses a hydrogen fuel cell called Hydrotec. The company mentioned it was looking into using SURUS as a truck, and it had been evaluated by the military under guidance of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC)

“SURUS redefines fuel cell electric technology for both highway and off-road environments,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business. “General Motors is committed to bringing new high-performance, zero-emission systems to solve complex challenges for a variety of customers.”

It seems a general consensus, then, that electricity is the way forward.

“In 15 to 20 years, it‘s hard to believe if industry moved in the direction of electric-powered vehicles that the Army would not be somewhere near there,” said Cedric Wins, commander of Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. “Its brigade combat team consumes 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. We’ve got to think about other ways.”

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