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Home : Media : News
NEWS | Jan. 27, 2023

NSWC Crane leverages Indiana racing expertise to develop military hybrid-electric vehicle

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) has leveraged the expertise of Indiana’s racing community to develop a hybrid-electric vehicle for the military. For about eight years, NSWC Crane has led development of this off-road technology to meet the unique needs of the expeditionary warfighter.

Braden Yake, an NSWC Crane employee and Project Lead for the Tactical Hybrid-Electric Vehicle, says they wanted to provide the military with an electric or hybrid vehicle to meet their requirements. In order to provide capability for the military, it would need to be able to drive through rough terrain, not be heavily reliant on fuel, while still being covert. He says this ongoing effort began in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).

“We identified the science and technology requirements to put high-energy payloads in small, transportable vehicles,” says Yake. “Back then, high energy payloads needed heavy vehicles to support them. Building this type of solution hadn’t been done before. Our team is small and agile enough to routinely design, develop, and build prototypes; we initially leveraged internal Naval Innovative Science & Engineering (NISE) funding to build an electric vehicle to meet the Warfighter’s requirements.”

Indiana has a long history of racing culture—the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held its first race in 1909 and is now home to the famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500. Indiana also has a history of automotive manufacturing and technology development.

Yake says collaborating with the Indiana racing community was a logical next step for rapid development of the Tactical Hybrid-Electric Vehicle.

“We did a lot of initial proof of concept designs and needed something more durable than we could produce internally,” says Yake. “We worked closely with a racing company in Indianapolis and made it more durable and lightweight. The Indiana racing community was synonymous with military work because of the amount of engineering required for a rugged, high performance solution. They build vehicles to gain any edge they can get on the track, resulting in a higher-than-standard automobile. They are more adept to pushing the envelope. They were also motivated to help make the military better as well.”

Yake says development of the Tactical Hybrid-Electric Vehicle was challenging.

“When we started, for the military to use an electric-only variant, the vehicle would have to be filled almost completely with batteries to meet the requirements. That only left room for the driver to sit. Based off of that challenge, we were funded to conduct market research and build a demo for performance and durability testing.”

He says there are many advantages to a tactical electric or hybrid vehicle.

“There’s an order of magnitude higher power export than conventional platforms,” says Yake. “The Tactical Hybrid-Electric Vehicle is harder to detect and is quiet; it has reduced audible detection range, reduced thermal signature, and long silent watch duration. There are fuel savings, which saves the military money since fuel can be expensive in-theater—transporting fuel can be a logistical challenge.”

Yake says since they initially started electric vehicle development, there have been many advancements made in the commercial sector.

“But that doesn’t necessarily transition directly for military use,” says Yake. “Commercial electric vehicles aren’t off-road capable and don’t function in more demanding environments. We started this process to provide a capability for the military, and the further we got in the process, the more we are in uncharted territory. Industry doesn’t have an off-the-shelf solution to date…and the pace is picking up faster over time as we continue to develop capabilities.”

Yake says the future of this effort continues to grow.

“Over the last year or two, the pace has picked up faster,” says Yake. “In the next fiscal year, the team is leveraging internal Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) funding to mentor United States Naval Academy midshipmen on an effort to convert their internal combustion engine (ICE) Formula SAE racecar to an electric powered variant. There are more opportunities to help others in the Department of Defense with this capability.”

About NSWC Crane NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

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