how an electric bushmaster can assist army logistics and fuel supply

Colonel Robin Smith and Matt Thistlethwaite, assistant minister for defence veterans’ affairs, and the Republic during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022 in front of an all-electric Bushmaster Protected mobility Vehicle. Source: Department of defence

An all-electric Bushmaster is being trialled by the defence force, as reported by The Driven on Thursday.

But why is the army looking at going electric? And what benefits can be had from the electrification of defence force vehicles?

We spoke to Colonel Robin Smith, director for the army’s robotic and autonomous systems implementation and coordination office, in a brief chat to find out more.

What advantages are there with an electrified Bushmaster?

The army produced a paper a couple of years ago with the power and energy paper where we looked at how we would potentially power infrastructure soldier systems and platforms in the future, based on the trends that were going on, particularly in the transport industry, and we started to realize that, as well as the naturally occurring, potential deployment of fossil fuels us there are a number of other opportunities with electrification of our military combat vehicles.

how an electric bushmaster can assist army logistics and fuel supply

A Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle after being unveiled during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022. In the background is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fitted with ruggedized solar panels. Image credit: Max Bree

So for example …. there’s potentially less maintenance, certainly simplified maintenance in the way that we use the platform. And for Army sustaining vehicles in the field is demanding, and therefore there’s a great opportunity to potentially make that more simple for ourselves.

Along with that comes a simplified drive train, which means potentially, that’s more resilient to battle damage.

how an electric bushmaster can assist army logistics and fuel supply

A Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle after being unveiled during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022. In the background is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fitted with ruggedized solar panels. Image credit: Max Bree

A system such as the electrified Bushmaster will also have a reduced thermal signature. So on the battlefield, it won’t be so detectable to thermal imaging, and other heat source sensing devices.

And of course, it will be quieter when it’s actually driving around …. (and) the greater torque allows us to gain different terrain accessibility, so it could probably climb a steeper incline, (and) can tow different weights in the way that we can at the moment.

And of course, the acceleration, which anyone that’s driven an electric vehicle would appreciate is significantly enhanced.

And whilst acceleration itself is not necessarily an enabler in combat, it might allow you to escape from an ambush or a difficult situation where you don’t want to be exposed for too long.

And then, of course, (there is) the reduced fuel consumption, as I’ve discussed before, so even though this platform is currently all electric, the intention in the longer term is to make it a form of hybrid.

Is there scope for actually deploying an all-electric Bushmaster in the field? What are the advantages in terms of security of logistics and supply chains?

The (current) platform is all electric. So it doesn’t have an engine, it doesn’t have a gearbox. So it cannot, it cannot be propelled by those mechanical means.

What we’re looking at doing is putting on externally mounted generators, but very small form function using rotary engine generators, to create a high power to weight opportunity for ourselves that will boost the range of the platform.

It also means that in certain circumstances, we could take the generators off the platform, and use the vehicle in its all-electric form.

how an electric bushmaster can assist army logistics and fuel supply

A Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle after being unveiled during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022. In the background is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fitted with ruggedized solar panels. Image credit: Max Bree

So we acknowledge that we don’t really want to just create a new charging problem in the field. And so this is stage one of a multi-stage prototype and discovery activity as part of the aim (to) pivot towards future ready.

Acknowledging your question around logistics, I’m a logistician by background. And I’m very conscious of the amount of fuel that an army requires to be sustained in the field.

And so this is an opportunity, even with the hybrid (probably diesel) generators in the short term (and perhaps other fuels such as hydrogen in the longer term) that will allow us to reduce our overall footprint and our demand or logistic convoys in the future.

What does this all-electric concept look like in terms of sort of battery size, driving range and power and torque?

Without getting into the specifics, a vehicle is currently configured (for) around about 100 kilometres with a small battery that’s (already) fitted, and we have a larger battery that’s just in production right now, which will extend that range out to around about 300 to 350km, which is about the range of a Bushmaster today.

So we kind of retain that same level, but we’ve lost some weight in doing that redesign, approximately a ton and a half to two tons in weight.

And it’s reduced the height of the centre of gravity and moved that rearwards. The axle weight is different in the electric vehicle than than in the “normal” Bushmaster.

That gives us a range of opportunities with regard to sort of agility and that sort of thing.

And of course, the challenge for electric vehicles is the way you drive them. So on the highway, where you can keep a consistent speed, and you get pretty predictable performance, but driving cross country up and down steep inclines, towing, and those other sort of military type roles will alter the profile and the range that we’ll get.

That’s part of our experimentation so that we can (find the) right size, the battery pack …. the recharge capability, and make the trade-offs where we feel necessary.

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