Oshkosh Defense unveiled Tuesday an electric-hybrid version of its vehicle that's replaced many military Humvees.
Named the eJLTV, which stands for electric Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, it offers the U.S. Army and Marine Corps the same level of performance and protection as the conventional JLTV, according to Oshkosh. The new vehicle adds a silent-drive mode, extended fuel economy, and increased exportable power capability.
The electric hybrid, still a prototype, can run in silent mode on battery power for up to 30 minutes. It gets more than 20% better fuel mileage than the conventional JLTV.
The diesel engine charges the lithium-ion battery while in use, with a full charge delivered within 30 minutes. That eliminates the need for charging stations which would be hard to find in many remote locations.
"As you can imagine, introducing a charging infrastructure on today's modern battlefield remains the most significant barrier to electrification of the ground vehicle fleet. The JLTV does not require charging stations," said John Bryant, president of Oshkosh Defense and executive vice president of Oshkosh Corp.
At its factory in Oshkosh, the company has built more than 15,000 conventional JLTVs, a bigger and more capable version of the military Humvee. This year, the Army plans to reopen the JLTV program for competitive bidders and issue a follow-on production contract, in September, valued at $6.5 billion.
While the Army has not requested a hybrid-electric vehicle as part of the deal, the prototype proves its capabilities, according to Oshkosh.
With the flip of a switch, the vehicle can seamlessly transition from stealth-like silent mode to conventional mode, and back, while on the go. It has increased export power of up to 115 kilowatts, eliminating the need for many towed generators.
The current fleet of JLTVs could be retrofitted to be hybrids as well.
"With this vehicle, we retained the proven diesel engine," Bryant said.
Full electric military vehicles not practical
The 2022 Defense Authorization Act has a provision that supports the Army's pursuit of electric vehicles for light reconnaissance use.
But widespread use of combat vehicles and tactical supply vehicles that run solely on batteries could be many years away if it ever happens, according to a recent study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Battlefields of the future will require vehicles using a mix of energy sources including diesel fuel, said the study titled "Powering the U.S. Army of the Future."
"While all-electric vehicles have a promising future in the consumer and commercial industries," it said, ground combat and tactical vehicles that rely solely on battery power are "impractical" for battlefield use in the foreseeable future.
"Even accounting for reasonable advances in battery energy density by the year 2035, it would not be enough to offset their weight and size disadvantages," the report said.
"Recharging such vehicles in a short amount of time would require extremely large quantities of electric power that will not be available on the battlefield even with the mobile nuclear power plants now under development."
However, the study said, hybrid technologies using internal combustion engines, generators and battery storage are "an encouraging option."
Hybrids have already been used as power stations for military field command posts.
"Charging times are not a concern as refueling remains the same as with today's vehicles," the study said.
Diesel, jet propellant 8 (JP8) and biodiesel should be the primary sources of power brought to the battlefield for the near future, according to the Academies.
"The high energy density of these fuels reduces how many supply trucks in convoys carrying fuel are needed, which lowers risks to soldiers and contractors and the supply chain as a whole," the study said.
The Army has investigated mobile nuclear power as a way to recharge electric vehicles in places where access to conventional fuels could be shut off during combat.
"However, the latest mobile nuclear plant designs are difficult to transport, take days to set up and cool down, and are not capable of providing the amount of power needed to support forward operations or quickly recharge combat vehicles," the study said.
For civilian use, the White House has an EV strategy that includes a nationwide network of charging stations and $5 billion for states to build them.
Last summer, President Joe Biden set a goal of making half of all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the U.S. zero-emission vehicles by 2030, including EVs and hydrogen fuel-cell cars. But the order allows the Defense Department to continue using fossil fuels in the foreseeable future.
Oshkosh is testing electric fire trucks
Pierce Manufacturing, a sister company to Oshkosh Defense, has been testing the nation's first electric fire truck in Madison. It’s been used at one of the city’s busiest fire stations where it's plugged into a high-voltage charger between runs. The 42,000-pound truck has a backup diesel engine that kicks in should the batteries run low while out in the field.
“We always have that ability to switch modes,” said Eric Linsmeier, electrical and software technology director at Pierce.
The fire truck is much quieter when using its electric motor, improving communications in the cab and at fire scenes. What's more, the lack of diesel fumes keeps the station cleaner and healthier.
“There’s been a lot of focus on not putting carcinogens into the air,” Linsmeier said.
At various airports around the U.S., Pierce is testing an electric fire-rescue vehicle.
In 2021, the U.S. Postal Service awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to Oshkosh Corp. to build up to 165,000 "next generation" delivery vehicles over the next decade.
The Postal Service said it would pay Oshkosh $482 million to finalize the production design and gear up factories for the new vehicles. It marked the Postal Service's first large-scale fleet purchase in three decades. Many of its 190,000 mail delivery vehicles have been in service for 30 years.
All-electric vehicles could become part of the project, although that will be up to the Postal Service to decide. In some places, such as rural communities, it may not be practical to use an EV on a postal route.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Oshkosh Corp. unveils electric-hybrid military vehicle