Fuel efficiency is the last thing US Army will think of while designing a new vehicle for their ground troops. But I guess, like Bob Dylan sang once: “The times, they are a-changing”.
The world’s biggest army is indeed taking the green route and it is not just confined to their uniforms or vehicle camouflage paints.
They recently showcased their concept diesel-electric vehicle, which drinks close to 70 percent less gas than the standard issue up-armored Humvee the troops are using now. The new baby, rather unimaginatively named as “Fuel Efficient ground vehicle Demonstrator Bravo” or “FED Bravo” is by no means less tough.
The concept was developed at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren,Michigan with support from its industry partner World Technical Services, Inc. The Army brought the concept out in the open at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress last month.
Under the hood of FED Bravo is what makes it special. It’s all hybrid, though the main power-train is a huge 4.4-litre twin-turbo Ford V-8 worth 268 hp (huge by road-car standards that is). Add to that, there is the road-coupled hybrid drive system which has a front-mounted electric engine and a rear-integrated hybrid system. Further fuel is saved with the new engine start-stop system which electronically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is idling and turns it on when the driver puts the foot down on the pedal.
Of course, it will need all that engine power for the Bravo is not just a thin metal shell. Built based on the original FED concept shown last year – the FED Alpha – the army has ensured Bravo is as thick-skinned as any Humvee out there. It uses an armored cab on top of a tubular space frame, which increases the vehicles rigidity-to-weight ratio. That means the vehicle is stiff even though it is lighter. Then there is the V-shaped hull for blast protection.
Apart from transporting troops and equipment and engaging enemies, the Bravo will have another use, as it is designed to be a mobile power house, capable of connecting to a microgrid to supply power to small military outposts.
The Army is not that clear on what the fuel economy of Bravo would be even though reports suggested a 8.2 miles per gallon on city roads and 14.2 miles per gallon on highway.
Of course, FED Bravo won’t be running on highways if brought into active service. And eventually, the mileage won’t matter either for the customer driving this vehicle; the average soldier would want his wheels to offer him fast transportation and decent armor protection. Hybrid or fuel efficiency or being green won’t matter to him, unless of course it’s camouflage green.