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Army shows off alternative energy options
Magicvalley.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Hybrid tankers that can power an entire airfield. Electric chariots that can zip soldiers to their destinations. Fuel cell-powered all terrain vehicles that can roll along in near silence.

These are among alternative-energy vehicles being developed by the Army, which showed off a dozen prototypes Thursday at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The Army envisions the vehicles greatly reducing its fuel consumption on the battlefield and at urban posts in the near future with technology other military branches are watching closely. In fact, the Air Force has assigned a representative to the Army's Detroit-based National Automotive Center, which is developing the vehicles through partnerships with manufacturers.

"Our intention is to find common-use items that work not only commercially but with the military," said Army spokesman Eric Emerton.

The open house at an Elmendorf hangar was the show-and-tell portion of a four-day symposium in Anchorage co-hosted by the Army to explore clean energy sources for and from Alaska.

Military and industry engineers and others led visitors around vehicles ready for use and under development. Examples ranged from relatively humble Segway Human Transporters and three-wheel American Chariots to a heavy-duty hybrid truck and two versions of a surveillance carrier.

All represent the virtues of energy-saving technology that's so crucial at a time when the Army burns 750,000 gallons of fuel a day in Iraq alone, said NAC Director Dennis Wend.

"We can take these technologies and reduce our fuel on the battlefield," he said. "At the same time, we can put these technologies on our bases and be a good neighbor to our industrial partners by sharing information."

Reality, however, is three to five years away for the more advanced equipment, according to Wend. The automotive research center, created a decade ago, has intensified its alternative energy development only in the last few years.

Besides corporate money, the center receives $100 million in federal research and development funds. But a recent $60 million infusion for a two-year pilot program will enable it to develop hybrid battlefield trucks.

"If that works out successfully, we could be looking at another billion dollars to put them into production, to actually produce several thousand vehicles for the Army's battlefields," Wend said.

Among the more impressive items on display was the SmarTruck II, a technologically enhanced armored vehicle. The modified Chevrolet Silverado is loaded with gear that would make James Bond proud -- luxury seats, a missile launcher, electric generator and far-range surveillance equipment, including night-vision capabilities.

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This is good news. Reduction in fuel consumption and the possibilty of near silent vehicles will be strong motivation for the Army to implement and develop these technologies. With their deep pockets, battlefield advantages should outweigh high costs of these technologies. After a few years of use, costs should drop and technology develop to the point where we will see this stuff start to show up in the civilian world.
 

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this is good and all.... but working for a Military contractor, I know this isnt all that good. Yeah, great fuel cells...but the equipment still weighs the same, and now you have less power to pull it all. Trust me, its not as good as it sounds.
 

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As long as they have practical applications why not? I mean first they should start out with non-combatative vehicles then move to the battlefield vehiles when they have perfected it... I'm sure the soldiers do not want inferior weaponery if all the pay off is, is good MPG or low fuel consumption.
 

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I think it's great news!!
The variable adjustable shocks on Cadillacs were actually designed by a racing firm for use on the Army's Hummer. Since GM owns Hummer, the trickle down was almost immediate - of course on the more prestigous brand. Eventually it should be on most all higher end GM vehicles (I hope!).
I saw a great segment on it's development on "Spike TV".

Cheers
 

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While I understand the reasons for having more fuel efficient tanks, APCs and Humvee's, this should not come at the expense of power, maneuverability, or fighting efficiency. If you can run an Abrams for a thousand miles without refueling, and still have the same power/weight/etc as today, then by all means go for it - that would cut costs drastically for military deployments and make our armed forces even more formidable. But there isn't really a magic solution that can do that, because fuel cells are still not advanced enough to do that, and hybrids just aren't powerful enough without increasing the weight significantly.

I applaud the effort, but it's a bit premature to think there will be any battlefield payoff for at least another 10-12 years, especially with the beaurocracy of the Pentagon.
 
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