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Research vehicle aims to improve future Army transport

Sep. 25, 2013 - 05:20PM   |  
Ultra Light Vehicle research prototype
Ultra Light Vehicle research prototype (TARDEC)
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The Ultra Light Vehicle features:

■ A lightweight turbo diesel engine with 260 pound-feet of torque
■ Predicted to go 0 to 50 mph in 16.2 seconds
■ Can go up to 337 miles at 35 mph in flat terrain
■ Curb vehicle weight of 13,916 pounds
■ Seats four people and a gunner

Meet the Army’s ground vehicle lab rat: It’s a hybrid that looks like a Humvee, but has two electric motors, a light diesel engine, is made of ultra light materials and has a predicted speed of 74 miles an hour.

The Ultra Light Vehicle will never be the next Army Humvee, but the people working on it hope it will save millions in research for future Army ground vehicle programs.

The Frankenstein prototype was put together with technologies from the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, off-the-shelf commercial parts, and newly developed technologies in just 16 months, according to the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, which created the research vehicle.

The $25 million ULV program, funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is designed to test lightweight armor materials, lightweight automotive components and blast-mitigating technologies by integrating them into one platform and analyzing how all those systems work together, said Mike Karaki, project manager for the ULV.

TARDEC is “pushing the envelope” by bringing all those components together into one vehicle, Karaki said. “TARDEC’s role in this program is to look at the art of the possible,” he told Army Times.

Some of the lightweight materials used in the vehicle might be “deemed high risk,” Karaki said — the vehicle has windows made of a transparent ceramic armor— but it’s all part of the testing.

A unique feature of the ULV is that it was created as a hybrid electric vehicle not just to be “green,” but also to improve survivability, Karaki said. As a hybrid, the ULV does not require a driveshaft, creating a “clean underbody” which Karaki said complements survivability. The ULV’s underbelly will be tested to see how well it holds up to a blast.

The three ULVs created by TARDEC will go though testing that will run through next year. The testing will focus on the hybrid components of the ULV and gathering survivability data on the vehicle, Karaki said. The hybrid electric testing will be done at the TARDEC Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab starting in November.

Karaki said the ULV project is for information sharing so the findings and lessons learned are not duplicated.

“We are really focused on getting the data, out of how those systems perform,” said Karaki. “That data might help and inform future Army science and technology programs.”

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