On Wednesday, May 25, the American Security Project hosted the event “rEVolution: The Future of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and the Military.” ASP’s Jessica Olcott Yllemo, Senior Fellow for Climate Security, was joined by Stanley Darbo, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), and Commander Michael Knickerbocker, Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy’s Federal Executive Fellowship, to discuss the state of EV’s in the military.
The conversation began with a discussion on the differences between tactical and non-tactical vehicles. Darbo made the point that when discussing tactical vehicles, the issue of electricity expands beyond just the engine. For Darbo, tactical EV vehicles must have the capacity to not only run the motor, but to charge soldier equipment, run organic weapons systems, and to offboard electricity to run external systems.
ASP’s Jessica Yllemo then posed a frequently asked question, whether it is feasible for tactical electric vehicles to be charged while in the field and on the move. Commander Knickerbocker tackled this question by positing that the Navy, specifically, often has excess generator capacity due to the use of nuclear power on carriers. This makes carriers an ideal micro power grid, able to expand the use of EVs. When dealing with land combat, both Commander Knickerbocker and Darbo emphasized the importance of enhancing battery technology to combat possible charging issues in the field.
Conversation then shifted towards the status of EVs being used by the military. Darbo confirmed that he is currently working on several different projects such as efforts to transition the Army’s Humvee fleet to hybrid electricity, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle initiative, and building two Bradley hybrid electric vehicles. Commander Knickerbocker lauded Darbo’s project with the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the Army’s smallest tracked vehicles, as he noted that a key to expanding EVs in the military is ensuring that investment begins at the ground floor before it is scaled up.
The panel ended on a positive note as Jessica Yllemo posed a question on the Navy’s calls for acquiring 100% zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. Darbo and Commander Knickerbocker were both confident that this is most definitely possible. Darbo stressed however that there is significant work that still needs to be made in order to bolster the science behind EV vehicles entering the military.
Photo courtesy of Noya Fields