June 01, 2012
Credit: Credit: BAE Systems
If BAE Systems' vice president of weapon systems, Mark Signorelli, is thinking big with BAE's entry in the competition for the U.S. Army's new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), he is starting off well. “Locomotives have been running on electric drives and hybrid-electric systems since the 1950s. Submarines have been diesel-electric or hybrid-electric since the 1920s.”
This could be the right mindset if your company is using its $450 million U.S. technology development contract to design a 70-ton tracked combat vehicle with a hybrid-electric drive train. In trying to get to the battlefield in combat vehicles, however, hybrid-electric drives have had to pull a lot of freight.
In the summer of 2006 the price of gasoline rose steadily toward a record at the time, and after many brutal months in Iraq it seemed like the trend would only continue. As the world's largest single oil consumer with an annual fuel bill of about $10 billion, the Pentagon had gas prices on its mind.
At that time both BAE and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) had advanced hybrid-electric designs in the running for defense contracts—BAE, with its wheeled and tracked manned ground vehicle variants under the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, and GDLS with a 20-metric-ton 8 X 8 wheeled Advanced Hybrid-Electric Drive platform with in-hub permanent magnet motors under the U.K.'s Future Rapid Effects System (FRES). BAE's Hagglunds subsidiary in Sweden was also fielding a hybrid-electric, the SEP T2 16-metric-ton armored personnel carrier in tracked and wheeled variants. There were even a handful of hybrid-electric Humvees.
Six years later? All three programs are more or less mothballed. The Swedish army passed on the SEP, FRES remains embattled, and FCS was abandoned. But not all was lost.
“The hybrid technologies under development for SEP live on in civil heavy-duty vehicles—like in mining, terminal logistics and airports,” says Hagglunds spokesman Hakan Karlsson. He says hybrids have 20-30% lower fuel consumption, lower maintenance costs and increased sustainability of operations.
BAE is also seeing some of its work reincarnated. After the collapse of FCS, the Pentagon launched a new effort to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The new ground bruiser—part tank, part armored personnel vehicle—is under technological development through the end of 2013, with BAE and GD the two main competitors. BAE's early prototype mobility tests for its GCV bid used engines and generators left over from FCS.