The United States Army has publicized efforts in the past five years to develop hybrid replacements for existing equipment. The Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Michigan presented the FED Alpha in 2011. The Fuel Efficient Demonstrator (FED) was cast as a replacement for the gas-guzzling Humvee that has been ubiquitous in major operations around the world. Army engineers used the recent Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress in Detroit to present the next-generation FED Beta.
The FED Beta is a 16,700-pound vehicle in the mold of the Humvee with a few major adjustments. TARDEC installed a 4.4-liter Ford diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission that drastically increase efficiency compared to the Humvee. The FED Beta features an electric motor stationed on the front axle that powers the front wheels. A lithium-ion battery pack developed in concert with the Center for Creative Studies is recharged constantly by energy gathered from the brake system. The U.S. Army has maintained the durable exterior of the Humvee while more than doubling fuel economy. The typical Humvee averages about 4.5 miles per gallon while the FED Beta averages 11.2 miles per gallon.
Additional features streamline the FED Beta compared not only to the Humvee but the FED Alpha. TARDEC replaced steel brakes with carbon-ceramic brakes that are considerably lighter without sacrificing braking distance. A start-stop feature shuts down the engine during full stops and uses electrical power to restart the engine during acceleration. The Army’s SAE presentation also highlighted the combination of hydraulics for steering and braking to increase efficiency. The FED Beta can also travel up to five miles on all-electric power at low speeds.
Engineers and designers at TARDEC have been busy in recent months developing greener forms of transportation for soldiers. The Clandestine Extended-Range Vehicle is a lightweight off-road vehicle akin to a dune buggy that has been developed alongside the FED platform. The FED Alpha and Beta are viewed not only as carriers for important personnel but as remote energy sources. TARDEC designed the FED platform with external outputs that could be used for power tools and communications systems. Attendees at the SAE World Congress were certainly wowed with the functionality and clever design of the FED Beta.
TARDEC is a particularly important initiative not only for the future of the U.S. Army but hybrid technology around the world. The federal government is seeking ways to reduce costs for all sectors including the Armed Forces. The FED Beta and successive models would rely less on fossil fuel that will only grow more expensive over time. Military officials are concerned with maintaining continuity in supply chains whether forces are located in Afghanistan or domestic bases.
The FED Beta can last longer without fuel and provide electrical outlets for hours of remote operation. We must also note that the military has driven technological progress over the past century including aviation, space technology and industrial tools. This progress continues with hybrid technology that could extend to automakers throughout the world over the next generation.