WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is ready to pursue a prototyping program for an electric light reconnaissance vehicle beginning in fiscal 2024, pending funding approval from Congress, the service’s program executive officer for combat support and combat services support told Defense News.
“We’re ready to get working on that program,” Brig. Gen. Luke Peterson said in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. “It’ll be a prototyping effort, and we will learn from that to help inform a fully developed capabilities development document.”
The Army already approved an abbreviated capabilities development document for the eLRV, and Peterson’s office has partnered with the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Moore, Georgia, to develop requirements.
Using some funding in FY22 to get started, the program office conducted market research that included purchasing some commercial electric vehicles in order to test them against an operational mission profile, Peterson explained.
“We took these platforms up to Grayling, Michigan, where we have test facilities, and we put them through their paces,” he said. “The intent of that was to identify what are going to be the operational and/or technical gaps that we need to think about as we solidify this requirement and initiate this program.”
The Army evaluated General Motors’ Hummer EV, a Canoo platform and a Lordstown Motors truck, Peterson explained, describing them as “three disparate vehicles offering different technical solutions.”
The evaluation team is now in the process of preparing a test report, which will feed into the prototyping effort, Peterson added.
At this point, vehicle solutions that could be chosen for the prototyping effort might include both hybrid and all-electric options. “I think we all believe that full electric and today’s battlefield is probably a stretch given the … charging capabilities that would be required,” Peterson said, “but we want to see what industry can do.”
Should the Army choose an all-electric platform, the eLRV would likely be the first to enter the force with that capability.
As part of the Army’s climate strategy it released in February 2022, the service has a goal to modernize its current platforms by adding mature electrification technologies, and field purpose-built, hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035, then move to fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050 to include a charging capability to meet the all-electric fleet’s needs.
Meanwhile, the Army is waiting for an FY24 budget in order to initiate efforts to work on converting some Humvees and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles to hybrid power.
“The president’s budget request reflected funding in order to initiate those efforts,” Peterson said. “From a requirements perspective, our analysis shows that getting after increased fuel efficiency fits within the threshold and objective of the requirements for both of those platforms.”
The Army is engaged in prototyping efforts to hybridize both the Humvee and JLTV through its Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, or RCCTO. Those vehicles “are in an integration phase right now,” Peterson added. “We hope to get those into testing here sometime next year.”
Those tests will help inform what could be the final potential design for converting the vehicles, according to Peterson.
Beyond that “we are looking at different acquisition strategies, leveraging what we’re going to learn from RCCTO,” he said, plus how it could be matured to a manufacturing readiness level in order to cut hybrid capability into the production line of the vehicles.
Converting the vehicles, Peterson acknowledged, will take significant investment up front.
“JLTV and Humvee, as they stand today, were not purpose-built to be hybrid vehicles. So when you’re adding on capability, how do you integrate that effectively without taking away any of the capabilities for the warfighter? That is the analysis that we are learning from the RCCTO,” he said.
“We’re very excited for our soldiers to get some of those capabilities that will only help increase their operational warfighting capability, their force protection,” he said, “but at the same time we have to make sure they have the power when they need it, so we think a hybrid approach at this phase is probably the right level of maturity to be going after.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.