ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — An increasing number of countries are beginning to look at transforming their fleets of tactical ground vehicles through hybrid-electric drive technologies, and vendors are getting ready for the demand.
Why would a military want to go hybrid or fully electric? Steve duMont, President of GM Defense, explains that the transition would greatly enhance armies’ logistical and tactical capabilities.
“From an operational standpoint, light tactical hybrid vehicles offer the advantages of having low thermal and acoustic signatures, greater operational range and mission duration, charging power as well as enhanced off-road capacity through instantaneous, high-end torque. Most importantly, it provides silent drive and watch, critical capabilities to lower the chances of your opponent spotting you,” he said during an interview at the IDEX arms fair here.
Since its creation in 2017, the General Motors’ subsidiary has set out to capture the attention of the U.S. military, and now the United Arab Emirates, by presenting solutions to electrify ground vehicles. The hybrid-electric platforms it offers act as a bridge to all-electric vehicles. The U.S. Army has previously said that it was aiming to acquire “full electric” complex-weapon systems in the light and medium category for 2030-2035.
One of the main roadblocks to electrification is the requirement of having a charging infrastructure, which can be tricky in austere areas. Another impediment is the extent to which advanced militaries have already invested in petroleum-based structures, ranging from oil distribution and refinement to the movement of ships or trucks and storage spaces such as fuel farms.
Traditional military procedures tend to call for the resupply of diesel and gasoline, as not many modern militaries have experience with electrified vehicles and the technologies needed to charge them on the battlefield. However, companies today offer fast-charging, advanced solutions such as hydrogen-based power generation that enable soldiers to refuel their vehicles at a quicker pace.
At IDEX, GM Defense showcased its Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) Heavy Gun Carrier variant and the next-generation Light Tactical Wheeled Vehicle prototype based on the Chevrolet Silverado as well as its Ultium battery platform. Engineers are now building and testing ISV configurations to meet multiple mission requirements including command-and-control, electronic warfare, counter-drone, reconnaissance and casualty evacuation.
The company previously won its first contract to provide U.S. forces with a nine-passenger ISV in 2020, which was based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 midsize truck architecture and featured 90% commercial-off-the-shelf parts. Following this, it integrated a commercially available high-volume production battery into its expeditionary ISV, transforming it into a five-passenger, all-electric military concept vehicle in less than 13 weeks.
DuMont emphasized that one of the priorities for the company is leveraging and maximizing commercial baselines. He said that commercial architectures play a crucial role in defense markets, enabling lower costs and easier maintenance.
The firm is rapidly expanding. During the conference, it signed its first cooperation agreement with the UAE government entity Tawazun Council as a first step towards a potential procurement. Company representatives said that the region had been on their radar for some time and eventually could pave the way for the co-development of some products that would include the localization of their systems at some level.
In addition, DuMont told Defense News that Ukraine had reached out with a request for information regarding the company’s technologies.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.