WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has picked six companies that will develop ways to power electric vehicles in austere, remote locations, according to an April 22 statement from Army Futures Command.
The effort will support the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) modernization effort and the Ground Vehicles Systems Center — in collaboration with the Army Applications Laboratory and Alion Science and Technology — as the service tackles how to power a future fleet of roughly 225,000 electric vehicles while operating in a field where infrastructure for such capability would likely not exist.
The Power Transfer Cohort began virtually on March 29 and concept design presentations to NGCV leadership are expected May 20. Cohort companies each received $100,000 to complete the 8-week program.
“Sourced from across the country, the selected companies represent a range of technologies and expertise — all aimed at identifying and exploring technologies that will help power the Army’s move to electric vehicles (EVs) and allow the Army to use electric power in remote locations,” the release states.
The companies chosen are Royal Oak, Michigan-based Coritech Services, Inc.; Czero, Inc. based in Fort Collins, Colorado; Fermata Energy in Charlottesville, Virginia; West Lafayette, Indiana-based PC Krause and Associates; Tritium Technologies, LLC in Torrance, California and Albany, New York-based Wright Electric.
Coritech specializes in “custom solutions for applications that require electrical control systems to meet unique process requirements or to demonstrate viability of early technology concepts,” the release said.
Czero is a mechanical engineering company focused on “early-stage research and development of technologies that reduce energy consumption and harmful emissions,” the statement read.
Fermata designs, provides and uses patented technology that speeds up the adoption of electric vehicles and the transition to renewable energy and clean transportation, according to the release.
PC Krause provides engineering services, software tools, modeling and simulations facilities as well as hardware prototyping and design with a specialty in integrated power, thermal and propulsion systems on mobile platforms, the release noted.
Tritium develops proprietary technology to make “advanced and reliable” DC fast chargers for electric vehicles. The company was the first in the world to “implement” Plug and Charge, which “enables EVs and charging equipment to communicate, authenticate and transact seamlessly via the charging cable,” the release stated.
Wright is comprised of a team of aerospace engineers, powertrain experts and battery chemists and is an industry leader in “the future of sustainable, lower-emissions air travel,” and is building electric planes to lower carbon emissions, fuel costs, noise and runway takeoff time, the release noted.
The Army is making a push to power its brigades using electric and hybrid sources as a way to break free from fuel and disposable batteries that bog down its logistics tail and limit mobility and reach.
Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, then-director of the Futures and Concepts Center within Army Futures Command, told Defense News early last year that it’s one thing to power a vehicle electrically, but another to work out an entire enterprise that would support fleets of electric vehicles and other capabilities.
“Let’s be clear. We’re behind. We’re late to meet on this thing,” Wesley said. “If you look at all of the analysis, all of the various nations that we work with, they’re all going to electric power with their automotive fleet, and right now, although we do [science and technology] and we’ve got some research and development going on and we can build prototypes, in terms of a transition plan, we are not there.”
The AAL cohort program is just one way the Army is looking to make progress on this front.
Last fall, AFC gave the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate the green light to develop a plan to equip tactical and combat vehicles with electric power. The directorate is in the process of drafting a requirements document for Tactical and Combat Vehicle Electrification.
The Power Transfer Cohort is one of several cohorts the AAL is supporting. The first ever cohort was set up last year to focus on the Army’s Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply (FAAR) effort, which is helping to solve handling artillery through automation across the logistics chain. Another cohort — Fire Faster — was established later in the year to come up with solutions to increase the rate of fire and smooth out the process of loading artillery pieces
“Last year, we launched and validated this new Cohort Program approach. We know it works, and we’re already seeing the results for our Army mission partners,” Col. Len Rosanoff, director of AAL, said in the statement. “The Power Transfer Cohort is a chance to show that this model can scale across the Army to solve other complex problems. This approach will make the Army a better business partner for industry. And we want others in the Army to know they can do this, too.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.