The military develops plan to use EVs similar to Tesla Semi for remote missions

Lt. General Eric Wesley, head of the US Army’s Futures and Concepts Center, is working on a detailed white paper for the military use of EVs. That will serve as a recommendation for how the Army transitions from internal combustion to electric vehicles. Wesley is inspired by the development of large battery-powered trucks by Tesla and others.

Wesley told Breaking Defense, a defense industry publication:

Tesla is building large trucks. UPS and FedEx are starting to buy vehicles to learn how they move into that area. The entire automotive industry is migrating toward this idea of electrification, and there’s a lot of good reasons for it. And as the entire industry goes to electrification, the supply of internal combustion engine parts is going to go down, and therefore prices are going to go up.

For at least five years, the US military has explored the use of EVs of various sizes. Many prototypes, like the vehicle shown above using the frame of a Chevy Colorado, used hydrogen fuel cells. But advances in battery technology are forcing a reconsideration of battery-electric trucks. Wesley said:

Battery costs have gone down precipitously over the last 10 years. Recharge times and range [have improved]. The trajectory that all of that is on, in the next two years, it’ll be far more efficient to have an electric vehicle than internal combustion, so we’re already, I would argue, late to the need.

Wesley said that electric vehicles assigned to military missions could also silently generate power for combat systems, such as sensors, command networks, laser weapons, and robots. Diesel fuel, which requires a difficult supply line, are commonly used for those purposes today.

Army tanker trucks

Breaking Defense reports:

Imagine a squad of soldiers recharging their jamming-resistant radios and IVAS targeting goggles in their vehicle between missions, or a mobile command post running its servers off the same truck that carried them.

Electric motors can even help frontline forces sneak up on the enemy. They run much quieter and cooler than internal combustion engines, making it much harder to hear electric vehicles approaching or spot them on infrared.

Wesley recognizes the challenges of EV range for some applications, such as “power-heavy vehicles.” However, the vast majority of Army vehicles are supply trucks and other lighter vehicles that would be well-suited to electric powertrains.

The more significant challenge, according to Wesley, is securing the vehicles.

Any one of us could go out and — as long as there’s not a waiting list — buy a Tesla tomorrow and sell our Chevy Suburban. You plug it in at home. We have the infrastructure. You don’t have to change your supply chain or your way of life when you buy a Tesla.

The Army, we can’t just go buy an electric vehicle.

The lieutenant general has ideas for how to power and charge the EVs — maybe even a combination of mobile nuclear power and capacitors.

He believes that it might take a decade for EV technologies to be widely deployed by the Army. But the white paper detailing the transition plan will be published in early summer 2020.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.