USA — Army eyes industry for energy efficiency alliances

DETROIT (Army News Ser­vice) — To meet ener­gy ini­tia­tives, cut costs, and to help bet­ter pro­tect Sol­diers, the Army is look­ing to indus­try for solu­tions and part­ner­ships.

Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center
While vis­it­ing the Army’s Tank Auto­mo­tive Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter, Aug. 26, Sen. Carl Levin of Michi­gan, left, and Under Sec­re­tary of the Army Joseph W. West­phal, cen­ter, met with Steve Knott, of TARDEC’s ground sys­tems sur­viv­abil­i­ty divi­sion. Knott explained to the sen­a­tor and the sec­re­tary new advances in lighter armor for Army com­bat vehi­cles. Dur­ing the Aug. 26–27 vis­it to Detroit, West­phal
Pho­to Cred­it: C. Todd Lopez.
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Under Sec­re­tary of the Army Joseph W. West­phal trav­eled to Detroit Aug. 26 to vis­it the Army’s Tank Auto­mo­tive Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter, along with automak­ers Gen­er­al Motors and Ford. 

The secretary’s vis­it to the Michi­gan sites came at the request of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, the state’s senior sen­a­tor and chair­man of the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Committee. 

“He had a great inter­est in me learn­ing more about what TARDEC does and its con­nec­tion to the auto indus­try and its con­nec­tion to the Depart­ment of Ener­gy,” said West­phal, of Levin. “My goal was to come here and see it with him and get a broad­er per­spec­tive of their work, their mis­sion and those relationships.” 

Out­side the Gen­er­al Motors Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter in War­ren Michi­gan, West­phal and Levin test-drove a Chevro­let Volt — a plug-in hybrid elec­tric vehi­cle. Fol­low­ing the dri­ve, the two vis­it­ed with GM exec­u­tives at the cen­ter to dis­cuss the Army’s efforts toward ener­gy effi­cien­cy, and what Gen­er­al Motors is doing in that area that could be done in part­ner­ship with the military. 

West­phal and Levin then trav­eled to the near­by TARDEC facil­i­ty to see how Army researchers are devel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies relat­ed to both Sol­dier safe­ty and fuel econ­o­my — two things West­phal said are impor­tant to the Army. 

“What I’d like to see us make the most progress in would be to first of all do what­ev­er we need to do to con­tin­ue to max­i­mize pro­tec­tion for Sol­diers in the bat­tle­field,” he said. “We are doing every­thing we can in that respect with all of our vehi­cles that we are using in the fight. And sec­ond­ly — to the extent that we can max­i­mize ener­gy sav­ings — have less depen­den­cy on petro­le­um prod­ucts and fos­sil fuels, both in com­bat and at home.” 

Dur­ing his vis­its to GM, TARDEC and Ford, the sec­re­tary said he saw evi­dence of that. 

“I think we saw evi­dence that there are a lot of poten­tial tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­ture we can use,” he said. “Some will require upfront invest­ment — that’s more cost­ly — we have to make those deci­sions to do that.” 

While at TARDEC, the sec­re­tary saw tech­nol­o­gy relat­ed to fuel effi­cien­cy, Sol­dier safe­ty, and devel­op­ment of bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy that would allow Sol­diers and equip­ment to yield more pow­er at less weight. 

Sonya Zanardel­li, an elec­tri­cal engi­neer and the ener­gy stor­age team leader at TARDEC, was one of those West­phal and Levin met at TARDEC. She is part of a team now look­ing at bet­ter alter­na­tives to the lead-acid bat­ter­ies now in 95 per­cent of Army vehicles. 

One goal, she said, is to increase the “silent watch” time pos­si­ble for Army com­bat vehicles. 

“What that means is on the vehi­cles you can pow­er all of your elec­tron­ics with your main engine off and have some­thing called ‘true silent watch’ — engine off and pow­er every­thing with a bat­tery,” she said. 

For Sol­diers, that means the abil­i­ty to con­duct oper­a­tions in silence, in the dark, vir­tu­al­ly unde­tect­ed, for as long as pos­si­ble. That length of time is lim­it­ed now by the dura­tion of lead-acid batteries. 

Zanardel­li said bat­tery chem­istry can deter­mine the length of time equip­ment can oper­ate. A lithi­um-ion bat­tery, for instance, has an ener­gy den­si­ty three times that of a lead-acid battery. 

“You can pow­er your mis­sion equip­ment much longer,” with a lithi­um-ion bat­tery, she said. Impor­tant also is “ener­gy den­si­ty” — that’s the amount of ener­gy a bat­tery can pro­vide com­pared to the weight of the battery. 

“We’re look­ing for high-ener­gy den­si­ty bat­ter­ies, high-pow­er bat­ter­ies, so the Sol­dier can car­ry his load and not have to change bat­ter­ies as often,” she said. That also means that Sol­diers would have less weight to carry. 

Zanardel­li said one chal­lenge with lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies, how­ev­er, is that they are sub­ject to “ther­mal run­away.” That’s a con­di­tion where the bat­ter­ies over­heat due to the chem­i­cal reac­tions inside them. That con­di­tion can be man­aged by bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tems that con­trol ener­gy use and mon­i­tor temperature. 

“One of the chal­lenges is how to mit­i­gate ther­mal run­away and how to devel­op a smarter more intel­li­gent bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tem,” she said. “If the bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tem fails, the bat­tery shuts down.” 

Steve Knott, with TARDEC’s ground sys­tems sur­viv­abil­i­ty divi­sion, also met with the sec­re­tary and sen­a­tor. He dis­cussed tech­nolo­gies being devel­oped now that pro­vide lighter pro­tec­tion for com­bat vehi­cles, yet still pro­vide the right kind of pro­tec­tion for Soldiers. 

“Prob­a­bly the most impor­tant things are the light­weight armors — the light­weight ceram­ic-com­pos­ite armors,” he said. “Tra­di­tion­al armors have been steels, alu­minum, vari­a­tions of steels that cause the round to break up and to tum­ble. The weight of those mate­ri­als are caus­ing bur­dens to the vehi­cle — specif­i­cal­ly in weight and size.” 

Some of those tech­nolo­gies involve ceram­ics, and car­bon-fiber prod­ucts that pro­vide the same pro­tec­tion as steel armor, but at a much lighter weight. That means that Sol­diers stay safe, but that the vehi­cles the armor pro­tects can car­ry more pay­load: more peo­ple, more sup­plies, or more weapons. 

“We have this awe­some task of bal­anc­ing per­for­mance, pay­load and pro­tec­tion,” he said. “You want to ensure you get the best pro­tec­tion with­out eat­ing up pay­load or performance.” 

Recent devel­op­ments in armor for vehi­cles, Knott said, have result­ed in sig­nif­i­cant weight reduc­tions for Army com­bat vehicles. 

“I think it’s safe to say we are reduc­ing today’s armors com­pared to steel — we can stop the same kind of round in about half the weight,” he said. “Today, the state-of-the-art is ceram­ics, com­pos­ites, and dif­fer­ent met­al matrix com­pos­ites. And as we get far­ther out, I think there are oppor­tu­ni­ties to exploit elec­tro­mag­net­ic and dif­fer­ent types of defeat mechanisms.” 

West­phal said he was impressed with the work he saw at TARDEC, and said that he sees progress being made toward Army goals of bet­ter ener­gy effi­cien­cy and Sol­dier safety. 

“The work that’s being done here is pret­ty essen­tial to not only the cur­rent mis­sions but pret­ty essen­tial to how we mod­ern­ize the Army and how best we move this equip­ping of the Army for­ward into the future,” he said. 

The sec­re­tary also said he was unaware as to the scope and depth of research being done at the Army’s War­ren, Mich., research facility. 

“I did­n’t real­ize they were focused on so many aspects of the fleet and look­ing at every­thing from ener­gy, to struc­ture and mobil­i­ty and so forth,” he said. “I was very pleased to see the scope and breadth and com­pre­hen­sive nature of their work.” 

Final­ly, the sec­re­tary said he was pleased with the abil­i­ty to talk direct­ly with auto man­u­fac­tur­ers to dis­cuss Army needs and desires and to strike up rela­tion­ships with them to move the Army for­ward with its goals. 

“See­ing that for the first time, after going through that peri­od where the car­mak­ers were going through tremen­dous eco­nom­ic cri­sis and all that tur­moil in the indus­try and see­ing where they have come from and what they are doing now and how they are look­ing at the future — that was pret­ty excit­ing,” he said. 

Still, West­phal said, build­ing mean­ing­ful part­ner­ships with the auto indus­try may prove chal­leng­ing. He said the part­ner­ships between indus­try, the Army and TARDEC will require more atten­tion in the very near future if the Army is going to accom­plish the things it wants to accomplish. 

“I think it will require greater open­ness by us, to engage with the pri­vate sec­tor and acad­e­mia,” he said. “And I would say the same thing about them. They will need to be a lit­tle more flex­i­ble and open in deal­ing with the mil­i­tary and the gov­ern­ment and the rules we work under.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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