The Fuel Efficient ground vehicle Demonstrator (FED) Bravo vehicle, designed by TARDEC and industry partner ASRC Primus, made its public debut at the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress and Exhibition April 24-26 at Cobo Center in Detroit. The Secretary of Defense funded the Army program to test commercially available fuel-efficient systems on a military application. (U.S. Army TARDEC photos.)
It’s possible that no single project represents the Defense Department’s willingness to break with convention and think in new ways about reducing fuel consumption than the latest Fuel Efficient ground vehicle Demonstrator, known as FED Bravo.
When FED Bravo made its public debut at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress and Exhibition in Detroit, one of the most frequently asked questions was, “when is it going into production?” But Carl Johnson and Rachel Agusti — the engineers at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) who coordinate the project — have to answer the same way: the two FED vehicles were funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to test and transfer technology, not to field the vehicles.
“This is a concept vehicle,” Johnson stated from the floor of TARDEC’s SAE exhibit, where a steady stream of visitors sat in the FED vehicle and fired off questions about its fuel economy systems at the event April 24-26. “The vehicle itself won’t go into production, but the components, technology and lessons learned will be transitioned to the current fleet and allow us to improve the future fleet. The FED vehicles were built to evaluate whether existing fuel efficiency solutions will be effective on a military platform.”
The level of those improvements can be summed up in a simple sentence that Johnson and Agusti will repeat many times as they display the FED Bravo from here to Washington, D.C., and the vehicle undergoes performance and durability testing throughout the year:
“This vehicle can perform the same mission as a Humvee [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle], but with 90 percent better fuel efficiency.”
That’s the first illustration of how the FED Bravo — which follows the earlier FED Alpha into the demonstrator fleet — proves that the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Army are serious about achieving higher miles per gallon ratings for its vehicles and using less fuel.
TARDEC engineers worked with industry partner ASRC Primus to produce a military demonstrator vehicle that could perform the same mission as a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) but with 90 percent better mpg ratings. FED Bravo made its public debut in the TARDEC exhibit at SAE World Congress and Exhibition, April 24-26.
The FED Bravo offers 9.58 combined mpg, which represents a mixture of urban mission and convoy escort (highway) driving. The current HMMWV model the FED uses for comparison generates about 4.8 mpg. That increase in fuel mileage has profound significance for the Soldiers deployed in escort convoys for fuel deliveries to Soldiers in the field — the Secretary of the Army has stated that those units report one casualty for every 46 convoys sent on refueling missions.
“[Improved fuel efficiency] means less time securing fuel convoys and doing IED sweeps, which leaves more time for fighting the enemy and helping train the Afghanis,” commented MAJ Joseph Morrison, Associate Director of TARDEC Special Programs Office. “The amount of effort that goes into getting every gallon of fuel to the Soldiers is tremendous, with thousands involved from Port to COP [combat outpost]. When you take that into account, that gallon of fuel is fairly expensive by the time it gets there. Better fuel efficiency will allow the military to use taxpayer dollars more wisely by being able to allocate troops and money to other missions.”
Bear in mind that the Army cannot omit the third “P” in the fundamental ground vehicle equation: performance, payload and protection. Because ground vehicles have to provide an armor skin to protect Soldiers and Marines in the crew compartment who may get attacked on patrols, the survivability trade-off for the armor’s added weight will always be part of the equation.
To overcome that and other military vehicle requirements that enable missions but also drag down the mpg numbers, TARDEC’s Advanced Concepts Team worked with a prolific cast of automotive contractors to design and build two Fuel Efficient ground vehicle Demonstrators they named FED Alpha and FED Bravo.
TARDEC partnered with Select Engineering Services (SES) and Ricardo llc to create the FED Alpha, which remains in testing, and collaborated with private industry contractor ASRC Primus on the FED Bravo vehicle. The teams identified as many commercially available fuel-saving, aerodynamic and safety features for both vehicles to move the needle on fuel economy while continuing to satisfy the Army’s requirements for a tactical vehicle.
Not Your Average Army Process
FED Bravo engineers shredded the Army’s usual approach to vehicle design in two other ways to spark innovation. They adopted the “Monster Garage” method — so named to emulate the former cable television series that turned common vehicle models into something creative and extraordinary — and they went outside the Army to an academic partner to reshape the vehicle’s styling and layout.
FED Bravo, which has a combined mpg rating 90-percent higher than a comparable HMMWV, went on an urban “mission” before it debuted at the SAE World Congress and Exhibition. TARDEC’s location in the heart of Detroit’s auto industry enabled an extensive amount of collaboration to equip the vehicle with fuel-efficient technology.
In the “Monster Garage” series, the hosts invited specialists to contribute ideas for each aspect of the vehicle. To design FED Bravo, TARDEC and Primus assembled a circle of subject-matter experts from government, industry and academia to filter through the most innovative and effective fuel-efficient technologies on the market that could be applied to a military platform. At TARDEC’s Concepts Analysis System Simulation and Integration (CASSI) studios, engineers began M&S studies to examine vehicle tradeoffs using a top-down, systems-level approach with fuel efficiency and performance as primary requirements.
The team determined to equip FED Bravo with key features that include the following:
- Road-coupled parallel hybrid drive system. The front axle is powered by an electric motor, while the rear-wheel-drive is linked to a hybrid fuel-powered and electric system.
- Ford 4.4-liter twin turbocharged V8 diesel engine, capable of producing 268 horsepower.
- Integrated starter-generator shuts off the engine during idle time and restarts it when the driver touches the accelerator, which improves fuel economy and reduces emissions.
- Six-speed automatic transmission coupled with an advanced lithium-ion battery with high energy and power density.
- The full-power hydraulic brake system with antilock brakes is combined with the steering system to supply the hydraulic pressure demands for the steering, eliminating a second pump and improving efficiency.
- Carbon ceramic brake rotors with advanced coating for durability, plus low-drag aluminum brake calipers.
- Tubular space frame chassis for better rigidity-to-weight ratio. Combined with armored cab and V-shaped hull for protection from blasts.
In another aberration from standard practices, TARDEC engaged an automotive design class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit — the same pool of design talent that the Big Three draw from to design their passenger vehicles — to give the FED Bravo a bolder look on the outside and ergonomic upgrades on the inside. Military vehicles are normally designed around function and need, without much attention to industrial design or driver interface. TARDEC engineers invited 18 CCS design students in a class to provide their design ideas for an Army vehicle that would mimic the capabilities of a HMMWV M1114 vehicle but with a presence unlike anything else seen on a battlefield.
The team narrowed down the selections to three students’ ideas and then chose the design by Joel Zastrow, who was a junior at the time, to move forward. Zastrow was subsequently hired by Primus to complete the FED vehicle’s interior layout (which includes cup holders — Soldiers get thirsty in a desert). He unveiled his creation on a 1/5-scale model at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
TARDEC Interim Director Jennifer Hitchcock checks out the FED Bravo vehicle’s interior during the SAE World Congress and Exhibition April 24-26. FED Bravo demonstrates how commercially available fuel-saving automotive systems can help a military vehicle achieve a 90-percent improvement in fuel mileage.
“It doesn’t look like any other military vehicle,” Carl Johnson commented. “We’re supposed to be looking forward with this vehicle, so it’s supposed to be different.”
What Have We Learned?
Two demonstrator vehicles can make a difference. FED Alpha and Bravo have already made their mark in the transfer of equipment and knowledge to benefit the engineering process.
“The drive cycles developed by CASSI to record performance data from the vehicle are going to be used again for other Army vehicles,” Johnson related. “The Army didn’t have its own drive cycles yet. This was a FED drive cycle designed just for this vehicle, but it can be adapted to other vehicles. Also, the data recorders we used in testing have worked so well, Aberdeen Proving Ground acquired them to continue using there.”
Another gain for TARDEC could be called the “player to be named later.” TARDEC hired CCS graduate James Scott, another automotive design student from the same CCS class as Zastrow, to work with the Advanced Concepts group where he now creates designs for Army vehicles.
The ultimate objective remains the same — transfer as many of these fuel-saving technologies and improved processes to other projects and platforms to make tactical vehicles as efficient, agile and safe as possible.
“The FED Bravo gets 90 percent better fuel economy and can go 80 mph — we would have definitely traded in our truck for something like that,” Morrison added. “This vehicle has a little bit of both [efficiency and protection] when you factor in the V-shaped Hull and the adjustable height on the suspension which provides more blast protection. If some of these concepts are used in other vehicles, I think Soldiers will be impressed.”
Johnson announced that the Bravo vehicle may make another public appearance at the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17.
Beyond that, it’s back to work for the vehicle — it undergoes testing and evaluation at the Chelsea Proving Ground in Michigan this summer and then heads over to the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland from August to December.
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