GM Defense is leveraging its corporate parent’s Ultium battery technology that will bring electric power to the battlefront, a project being developed for the Defense Innovation Unit (or DIU), a Department of Defense (DoD) division founded to help the U.S. military make use of emerging technology.
The initiative could lead to a future battery-electric vehicle (BEV) for the U.S. Marine Corps and will set the stage for standardization of their lithium battery platforms. The effort is meant to fulfill a 2030 federal government objective to “meet critical defense battery demand with multiple-source domestic suppliers,” according to the DIU.
That means the same technology that underpins the GMC Hummer SUT and Silverado EV is undergoing testing for the DoD. Testing of Ultium batteries would initially lead to a battery module that would power drones communications and other battlefield electrified needs and be fitted to the four-seat Infantry Squad Vehicle, or ISV, a specialized infantry vehicle based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.
The road to an electrified military
Last September, GM Defense, a subsidiary of General Motors, was one of five companies awarded the chance to develop a battery pack prototype. Five months later, the DIU announced the DoD’s intention to accelerate adoption of commercial EV battery technology for military use by launching the Jumpstart for Advanced Battery Standardization project, or JABS. The effort looks to prototype battery systems using standardized state-of-the-art technology and manufacturing.
“Our strategy is to learn how large of a building block we can leverage, how to package the commercial technology into non-proprietary defense interfaces, and how to integrate batteries evolving at the speed of industry into defense platforms with static structures,” said Daphne Fuentevilla, the deputy director of the Navy’s operational energy office in a statement at the time.
That strategy was put in motion late last month, when the DIU awarded GM Defense a second contract to prototype an energy storage unit for the DIU’s Stable Tactical Expeditionary Electric Power (STEEP) program to support tactical microgrid and energy management in remote, austere locations.
“This contract award demonstrates our ability to leverage advanced commercial technologies and investments from our parent company, GM, to reduce warfighter fuel consumption, and lower acoustic and thermal signatures, while providing efficient energy at the tactical edge,” says Steve duMont, president of GM Defense.
Other automakers awarded
But GM Defense wasn’t the only automaker awarded a contract by the DIU. Earlier this month, Texas-based EV startup Canoo, one of the other five companies charged with developing a technologically advanced commercial battery pack that can be scaled for military use, also was given the go-ahead.
This is far from Canoo’s first project for the DoD, as it delivered the Light Tactical Vehicle (LTV) to the U.S. Army for analysis late last year. With 600 horsepower and all-wheel drive, the LTV can be converted from a pickup to a flatbed truck, cargo vehicle or other configurations.
And earlier this month, the neophyte automaker delivered three Crew Transportation Vehicles (CTVs) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Merritt Island, Florida, for the Artemis lunar landing missions.
“The LTV is another milestone proving the power of our technology and how it can be used, even in tactical situations,” said Tony Aquila, chairman & CEO at Canoo.
But Canoo isn’t alone. In January, Lucid was issued an award to develop battery module prototypes for testing and analysis by DoD that, like other OEMs, would be used for integration in electrified tactical military vehicles.
Two other unnamed manufacturers are also participating.
Out with the old
The new units would replace diesel generators currently used, which are either fully on or fully off, meaning a lot of fuel is wasted whether the amount of electricity used is large or small.
The programs are seen as a stepping stone to the U.S. military putting battery electric vehicles (BEVs) onto the battlefield.
With GM Defense already proving the merit of the turbo-diesel-powered ISV, a hybrid or BEV version isn’t unimaginable. In fact, GM Defense’s ISV family includes an All-Electric Military Concept Vehicle (eISV) that combines the nine-passenger ISV platform with a 3-Phase AC Permanent Magnet Motor and a 400-volt, 66-kWh battery with a two-speed transfer case, Dana front and rear electronic locking differentials, and a 2.62 low range.
And that’s not all.
An autonomous eISV for transporting electronic weapons and defense into battle is also being designed. While the Marine Corps may not be ready for such a vehicle, GM Defense will have one ready when the DoD is. But odds are, so will Canoo and Lucid.
In the meantime, STEEP operational testing and evaluation is expected within 18-24 months.