British Army trialling hybrid-electric drive systems

Harry Lye 20 August 2020 (Last Updated August 20th, 2020 12:55)

Following a £3m contract with NP Aerospace, the British Army is to begin trialling hybrid-electric drive systems on Foxhound and Jackal 2 vehicles.

British Army trialling hybrid-electric drive systems
Supacat Jackal 2. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

The hybrid technology offers improved power capabilities for both onboard and offboard systems, improves sustainability and offers military advantages through reducing the noise signature of the vehicles.

Work is being led by Coventry-based NP Aerospace, which is working alongside General Dynamics Land Systems UK, Supacat and Magtec who make the vehicles, hybrid-electric drive system and batteries.

Moving towards hybrid technology is seen as a step to reducing the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) reliance on fossil fuels as it looks to meet the UK Government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin, said: “It is vital (that) our armoured vehicles are equipped with the latest technology so we can maintain our battle-winning edge.

“These tests will ensure our Armed Forces have the latest, safest and most efficient technology while continuing to support prosperity across the UK. They represent a potential opportunity to improve our vehicles sustainability and military effectiveness.”

Adopting more environmentally friendly technology is part of the MODs strategy to reduce its carbon footprint.

In a press release, NP Aerospace said: “Developed by Magtec in the UK, the hybrid electric e-drive solution for Foxhound and Jackal is intended to deliver multiple technical and operational enhancements, including (but not limited to); Silent mobility; Enhanced Silent Watch capabilities; Off-board electrical power; Increased onboard power for the insertion of the latest technologies.”

The technology is being trialled under the British Army’s Protected Mobility Engineering & Technical Support (PMETS) programme, which provides continuous upgrades to the UK’s armoured vehicle fleet.

Commenting on the contract, NP Aerospace chief operating officer David Petheram said: “The Protected Mobility Engineering & Technical Support (PMETS) programme delivers safety, efficiency and innovation activities across a variety of vehicle platforms, via a collaborative approach.

“The hybrid electric drive project is a significant development that will further extend the technical capabilities of the vehicles and is an important advancement in the incorporation of new technology. It will provide a greater understanding of what hybrid technology could achieve, whilst also looking to the future in terms of integrating additional sophisticated electronics across the PMETS vehicle fleet.”

The hybrid-electric drive project is known in the army as Technology Demonstrator 6 (TD6), which will see the British Army prototype hybrid drives and review their potential defence benefits.

The MOD added: ‘initial stages’ of the hybrid-electric drive project would be showcased at Defence Vehicle Dynamics 20 (DVD20) this November.

The British Army signalled its intention to move away from fossil fuels at last year’s DSEI event. At the time The Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said that the British Army’s current equipment programme may be the last to rely on fossil fuels.

General Dynamics Land Systems UK Vice President and General Manager Carew Wilks said: “As technology develops to meet the future operating needs of the British Army, the demand for onboard power only increases, and electrification of land vehicles offers an innovative solution.

“Foxhound, the British Army light infantry vehicle of choice, already has an architecture that enables electrification and is a natural choice for this demonstrator. We look forward to demonstrating our e-drive Foxhound in the coming months.”

SC Group-Global CEO Nick Ames added: “Following the work we have done with Exeter University on the All-Terrain Military Platform (ATMP) to give it electric drive and associated control, this piece of work is the natural follow on for us.

“We have the skills and knowledge to work with our project partners in making the well-respected Jackal vehicle “hybrid drive” thereby offering enhanced silent watch, stealth operation and improved power export capabilities for soldiers and their equipment.

“This is a very exciting project and clearly shows the British Army moving towards a non-hydrocarbon future as signalled by Chief of the General Staff at DSEI in 2019. This fits perfectly with our current and future strategy.”

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee who is leading the MOD’s in-the-works Climate Change and Sustainability Review said that the vehicle trials showed how ‘seriously’ the MOD was taking the incorporation of sustainability into its operations.

Nugee’s review is set to be published in December this year will cover the MOD’s NZ50 (net zero 50) strategy and set a baseline for ‘defence’s emissions and carbon footprint.’