EDTA Conference: Screw the Prius. Combat hybrids are "not your mother's hybrid"

Screw the Prius. Isn't that what the image above says to you? This is the first slide in the presentation Glen Bowling, general manager of Saft America's Space and Defense Division, gave at the EDTA conference yesterday. The session he was speaking at, "Defending our Future: Preparedness and National Security" was lightly attended, but I can't say if attendees were simply not interested in the topic or if they stayed away because it was the last session of the day. Whatever the case, Bowling's presentation laid out the clear distinctions between combat hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and "your mother's HEV," like a Prius.

When a military (Saft sells batteries to different militaries, as well as non-military agencies) asks for a battery-powered vehicle, it has specific needs. These combat HEVs are likely to be in unfavorable situations – parked in the sun in the Persian Gulf for six months – and soldiers need them to perform as expected when needed. Combat HEVs often operate in off-road conditions 24/7 and the on-board energy often needs to do more than move the vehicle, like powering field equipment. Users will also want to be able to do field repairs when something goes wrong.

Military planners like HEVs for a few reasons. They're quieter, which is advantageous in combat, and they use less gasoline. The cost of getting a gallon of gasoline to a combat zone sometimes tops $600, Bowling said, so each drop saved is one less expensive drop that needs to be carried in.

Saft has two types of military HEV batteries, both lithium-ion: combined high energy/high power (for PHEVs) and very high energy (for weapons/propulsion). Saft's technology has found its way into the GDLS 8x8 Demonstrator, the BAE System Lancer and the RST-V hybrid, a light Jeep-style vehicle. Bowling said a hybrid tank running on Saft technology (I missed the name, but it's the one in the picture above) is currently "out in the desert, having a good time" and working well. He didn't say whether or not the soldiers were also having a good time in the desert.

(Edit: "gasoling" typo fixed)

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