While government and industry have long been experimenting with electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, JP-8 conventional fuel--with its long logistical tail--is still king on the battlefield. But technological advancements in batteries and alternative fuels could shake up the status quo.
Proponents of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for the military say the technology can offer lower-cost power sources, greater performance and quieter, stealthier operations.
The Army--which has led the vast majority of the Defense Department's work in electric vehicles--recently hosted an electrification forum that drew engineers, project managers, academia and industry together to discuss electric vehicles. The forum--which took place in Troy, Michigan, in November--was the second such event in 2018, said Dean Zeal McGrew, leader of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center's powertrain electrification team.
It held detailed discussions about current developments TARDEC has made to date and how those fit into an overall electrical architecture, he said in an interview.
"We covered electrical inverters, DC-to-DC converters, power distribution, both high voltage and low voltage [and] low-voltage energy storage," he said.
Cybersecurity was another area of interest, he added.
"That's something that's just not going to go away," he said. "We know that [for] everything that we're doing going forward, cyber has to be a thoughtful element to make sure that we're not providing access into our systems."
The event was the second in a series that will continue through summer 2019 and culminate in a new development strategy, McGrew noted. TARDEC intends to probe industry about a variety of topics that include power generation and high-voltage storage.
It will be a "living, breathing document that's going to evolve over time, but we'll at least have one that we're ready to execute on and start a development process," he said.
TARDEC has been working to overcome hurdles related to electric and hybrid-electric vehicle technology for 25 years, he noted.
"We're coming out of the other side [on]... closing some of these gaps," he said. Key ones that have been evident for some time are size and thermal limits associated with the power electronics required for mobility.
However, silicon carbide--a wide-bandgap switch that can be used in high-temperature applications--has enabled the organization to make systems smaller and withstand...