Future Tanks Could Be Powered by Electricity

Tanks are notorious gas guzzlers, but converting the need for power from petroleum-based products to electricity could simplify supply delivery—and save lives.

Abrams Tank Live Fire Exercise
Thomas Alvarez/DVIDS

Main battle tanks and other armored vehicles of the future could run on electricity or utilize a hybrid drive system. Switching to such a system could not only reduce the demand for liquid fuel on the battlefield, but also avoid risking the lives of truck-driving soldiers delivering fuel to the front lines.

Traditional armored vehicles, including tanks, use engines running on diesel or gasoline. The need to drive a 60-ton vehicle cross-country, as well as provide power to fire control, sensors, and environmental systems, requires powerful engines. Tanks must also be able to accelerate quickly and, in a pinch, have the spare horsepower to tow other tanks. Ideally an armored vehicle should have a horsepower-to-weight ratio exceeding 20 to 1, which leads to engines capable of generating up to 1,500 horsepower.

U.S. Army Conducts Warrior Strike Exercise
U.S. Army M2 Bradley and M113 armored personnel carriers during exercise Warrior Strike, 2017.
Chung Sung-JunGetty Images

These engines require a huge amount of fuel. A U.S. Army armored division with all armored vehicles on-line and on the move can consume up to 500,000 gallons of fuel a day. All that fuel has to come from somewhere, typically the continental U.S., and is then driven in trucks to rearming and refueling points just behind the front line. Complicating matters, the M1A2 Abrams tank uses gasoline, while the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, M109 Paladin howitzer, and other vehicles use diesel.

What if we could replace both fuel types with a third type of fuel: electricity? The Driven, an Australian electric vehicle website, discusses the potential for the Australian Army to switch to electric vehicles. The same principles apply to the U.S. Army, however, magnified fiftyfold.

MNNG Soldiers Prepare for Tank Movement at XCTC 19-06
M1A2 Abrams tanks of the 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard.
Sgt. Luther C. Talks

There are several reasons to switch to electric drive systems. First, it would decrease the amount of fuel needed to travel to the front, reducing the number of vulnerable, fuel-laden convoys necessary to keep the tanks rolling. Second, electrical and hybrid systems are easier to upgrade and replace than internal combustion engines and transmissions. Third, such electric drive systems could be cheaper to run and easier on the planet.

The use of electrical drives would still require energy, just a different kind. Diesel-running generators are an obvious option, but the whole point is to get away from fossil fuels. Alternatives include swappable battery packs, renewable power including solar, and even battlefield nuclear power plants.

Source: The Driven

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