Updated: Oct 5
In line with the Department of Defense’s Climate Adaptation Plan (CAP), the Army’s Climate Strategy document targets a fully hybrid-drive electric vehicle (EV) fleet by 2035 and a fully electric tactical vehicle fleet by 2050. There are several reasons for these changes, including battlefield advantages, reducing supply chain risks for our own and allied troops, and climate change concerns.
So far, much of the discussion and research has been centered around developing this next generation of hybrid and all-electric EVs, ranging from light infantry vehicles to medium and heavy-duty tactical vehicles. However, significant innovation is required to recharge these vehicles in the field and maintain operational capacity under challenging conditions (both environmental and combat).
Here, we’ll look at the challenges facing the development of military power solutions and how they can be overcome to allow the deployment of hybrid and all-electric EVs.
Challenges Facing Military Power Solutions
The goal of deploying hybrid and eventually all-electric tactical EVs in the field faces two main obstacles: the lack of relevant vehicles and the absence of charging capabilities to match the current refueling processes with JP8. We will focus on the latter, namely the challenges to providing military power solutions to charge the future fleet of tactical EVs. These objectives have four primary challenges: mobility, reliance on grid power, environmental conditions, and generator capacity.
The charger setups capable of rapid recharge and handling multiple vehicles, current, and battery types concurrently are large, stationary structures that receive grid energy. Mobile chargers that can be deployed in any environment and with minimum up-time are essential to achieve the Army's objectives. These must also be easily transported via all available means (road, air, water, rail).
Reliance on Grid Power
Nearly all current commercial and military systems charge by leveraging grid energy and infrastructure. In most operational environments, the Army can’t rely on this preexisting infrastructure. As such, any tactical charging unit must operate independently of grid power by generating its own power or utilizing existing base microgrid power sources.
The nature of the Army’s operational environments means that charging and generating facilities need to handle exposure to extreme heat and cold, salt and sand, shocks, vibrations, and the heat of running at full capacity for extended periods. Operating in barren deserts or mountainous areas is rarely considered for commercial charging facilities, but military charging stations and the power supply feeding them must be built with these extra resilience considerations in mind.
Current commercial chargers for consumer EVs, even those delivering extremely fast charging, top out at 400 kW. Commercial military and heavy-duty chargers provide up to 4MW of power. Having all-electric tactical vehicles means very large load demands, requiring chargers with the capacity to match them. These will most likely be required to provide 6+ MW of power, which far outstrips the current focus of the commercial market and will require specialist technology and providers.
The Future of Military Power Solutions
Creating microgrids, which function independently of mains power, at army facilities or forward operating bases is already common practice. However, military power solutions will need to expand capacity significantly to meet the needs of a hybrid or all-electric tactical fleet. Current power generation is almost exclusively via fossil fuel (JP8) fueled gensets, though there is increasing utilization of renewable power sources (especially solar and wind) at bases in the US and abroad.
However, higher and more reliable renewables are being investigated to provide the power necessary for a tactical fleet, focusing mostly on hydrogen as the power source. This technology is still some ways from being able to meet the Army’s current and future needs as it relies on electrolysis, which still needs power to perform and does not yet meet requirements in terms of scale or mobility. It is clear that improved versions of current generators, even if run on JP8, are necessary to bridge the gap in military power solutions in the near and medium term.
A Military Power Solutions Case Study: MTBR
Recharging on the move is a major strategic consideration for the Army and will only grow in importance with the move to a hybrid and all-electric fleet. To meet these needs, a different kind of vehicle charging capacity is needed: one that is highly mobile, flexible enough to meet different needs, resilient enough to handle extreme conditions, and capable of providing power independent of the mains grid.
The Mobile Tactical Battlefield Recharger (MTBR) is a highly innovative EV charger that can provide up to 540kW of peak power and 330kW of continuous power. The MTBR is powered by a JP8-fueled prime mover but can also connect to mains and microgrid supply. It also has its own backup battery supply. It is much more efficient than conventional gensets (37% better in real-world tests and 50% at light loads), reducing resupply needs and risks. In addition, the MTBR has five operating modes (Silent, Quiet, Power Burst, Efficiency, and Rapid Charge), which can reduce acoustic and thermal signals on the battlefield.
Importantly, the MTBR is highly mobile -- it’s a 20ft container that can be transported easily by road, air, rail, and sea. It is also designed to withstand extreme environments, including rain, sand, snow, and high winds. It can be further hardened against electromagnetic and chemical threats through HEMP/EMI and CBRN protections and coatings. Its configurability, ability to integrate with different power and battery types, and in-depth HMI control provide the Army with a resilient and trustworthy EV charging unit that enables recharging on the move.
Strategy documents from the DoD and the Army have outlined the goal of deploying hybrid tactical vehicles by 2035 and all-electric tactical vehicles by 2050. While much of the focus has been on developing these vehicles, another significant obstacle to deployment is how they will be recharged in the field, as current commercial chargers are inadequate.
Therefore, the future of military power solutions must be resilient and mobile, deliver consistently high output, and be capable of energy independence. The MTBR, developed by Enercon and Czero, delivers exactly that and provides consistent EV charging capacity through a JP8-fueled prime mover with the capacity to connect to local grids or run off battery power. In the near and medium term, a highly efficient JP8 genset will still be required to meet the needs of EVs in the field, and the MTBR can go wherever the Army does.