Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach, but any modern day general will tell you that logistics have become far more complicated since Napoleon’s time, and fuel has joined food as something which an army won’t move without. To that end, BAE Systems has developed a hybrid propulsion system for the Northrop Grumman Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), which is slated to replace the M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicle. BAE says it will deliver up 20 percent better fuel economy than the standard version of the vehicle, but that this is just one advantage. The big torque numbers produced by electric motors can improve the vehicle’s acceleration, and the vehicle will also be able to operate in pure electric mode for a time, thus remaining much quieter and reducing the heat signature.
The 84-ton GCV will be more than twice the weight of the 33-ton Bradley, and is even heavier than the 64-ton M1A2 Abrams main battle tank which the army currently uses. This is largely because of the amount of armor the vehicle needs, but it also needs to be large enough to transport a 9 man squad as well as the three crewmen safely. The vehicle’s size, weight and cost are primarily determined by its combat role, and BAE developed the hybrid system as a more practical solution to the challenges posed by such a heavy vehicle. The procurement cost per vehicle will be $13 million, but BAE says the hybrid system will trim fuel and maintenance costs by enough that the lifetime cost of the vehicle will be lowered through its use.
The 1,100kW electric drivetrain brings the combined output of the vehicle to 1,500 horsepower, and the added torque allows it to reach 20mph nearly 3 seconds faster (7.8 seconds) than the purely mechanical version of the GCV. The compact design even allows for 3 to 4 more tons of armor. The GCV will be the first hybrid combat vehicle in the world, although we may see more of them if it proves effective and able to ease the strain of logistics.