Engineers are working on a new generation of stealth motorbikes for the military which make no sound and also use a fraction of the fuel of existing machines. The use of new energy-efficient, hybrid technology on motorbikes aims to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels while also helping Special Forces units sneak up on the enemy.
Last Month, Virginia-based Logos Technologies received a small research grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a hybrid motorcycle with near-silent capabilities. The company will partner with San Francisco-based BRD, a specialist in all-electric motorcycles.
Logos Technologies says it will use a multi-fuel hybrid-electric power system that has previously been used to power an unmanned aerial vehicle.
First-ever hybrid off-road motorcycle
Partner BRD is developing a "cutting-edge" motorcycle platform to integrate with the engine says Logos. It will mark the first time a two-wheel-drive, multi-fuel hybrid capability has been integrated into a full-size off-road motorcycle.
"Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of US expeditionary and Special Forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments," said Wade Pulliam, manager of advanced concepts at Logos Technologies.
"With a growing need to operate small units far from logistical support, the military may increasingly rely on adaptable, efficient technologies like this hybrid-electric motorcycle," he added.
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Motorbikes and quad bikes have been used extensively in Afghanistan, where rough terrain has often hampered troop movement.
"The bikes allowed Marines to patrol larger areas, to easily and quickly zip up hills. Quick access to higher terrain allowed a tactical advantage which was often safer than, say, a low-lying village, where Marines might risk getting caught in an ambush," Michael Golembesky, a former Marine Corps special operations staff sergeant, told CNN last month.
Previous attempts at stealth motorcycle
It's not the first time the US armed forces have experimented with alternative power systems for bikes. Back in 2013, the US military tested an undisclosed number of all-electric Zero MMX military motorcycles. With its all black paintjob and slick lines, the MMX motorbike certainly looked stealthy.
The bikes had several key features for military use including keyless ignition, no exhaust or intakes, and battery packs which could be replaced in less than a minute.
But one drawback of the all-electric MMX motorbike has been their low battery life - sometimes providing as little as two hours worth of power - which means their range is limited. Despite the batteries being fairly simply to replace, this short battery life means soldiers have to carry several batteries on each mission, taking up precious space for supplies and adding considerable weight.
The Logos Technologies' motorcycle is different because it uses a hybrid engine rather than a purely electric drive train like the Zero MMX. By using a multi-fuel combustion engine the motorcycle can achieve much greater ranges while the electric engine will give it much-needed silence when operating in enemy territory.
No information is available on when a prototype will be completed but previous Logos projects have been completed in less than 12 months.