Enhancing Military Capabilities with Hybrid-Electric Propulsion Technologies

The future of defense and aerospace is electric and miniaturization, and there is a likelihood of an increase in the adoption of electric equipment in defense and aerospace applications. As we go ahead, more and more electricity-based equipment will emerge that is not dependent on fossil fuels.

Date: Issue 131 - June 2024 Update: July 20, 2024

Both the military and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) globally have been investing in vehicle electrification and developing and testing hybrid variants of their vehicles. Electric vehicles offer several tactical advantages over traditional diesel engines, including higher torque at lower speeds, enabling silent tracking missions, and lower acoustic and thermal signatures. However, recent research and studies indicate that the widespread use of such technology may not be feasible until the 2030s, or perhaps ever. This suggests that all-electric (fully electric) ground combat platforms and tactical supply vehicles may not be practical now or in the foreseeable future despite their potential advantages.

Even though commercial vehicle companies have made strides in electric technology, the military has unique challenges. For example, military power packs are expected to meet very severe environmental requirements such as cold weather starting (cold start at -32°C) and operation (at -45°C), hot weather operation (+55°C), storage in harsh conditions, and drive through water (water penetration). In military vehicles, fuel (in this case, the battery) can be exposed to temperatures between -46 and +88 °C in the engine compartment. Due to their nature, the performance of batteries in cold operating conditions is significantly reduced. Likewise, both cold and heat adversely affect electronic systems and the thermal management of the battery. Thus, commercial electrification technology cannot be applied directly, as it is for military land vehicles. However, commercial vehicles don't typically get shot at on the highway, but military land vehicles do. So, suppose you have a lithium-ion battery system. In that case, you need to be able to take rounds without starting a fire or explosion.