What’s muy macho than a Hummer, and yet also green? How about the Humvee’s possible replacement, the Oshkosh L-ATV. A ProPulse diesel-electric hybrid system is optional, and useful in military applications because it comes with 70 kilowatts of available electric power that are very likely to come in handy in remote locations.


I’m still trying to get a bead on this thing’s actual hybrid fuel economy, but Ken Juergens, an Oshkosh vice president, says, “Battlefields have changed — threats are more dangerous, operating environments are more rugged and fuel efficiency is more important than ever.”


That’s definitely true. The L-ATV (at right) would leave the Humvee in its dust, would have a longer fighting range, plows right through desert terrain, and would be less dependent on the vulnerable fuel convoys that are regularly attacked as they traverse Iraq and Afghanistan. I got versed on these issues during a recent visit to Las Vegas, where, at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, I heard Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (below) speak. It was revelatory.


The Department of Defense uses 90 percent of all the energy used by any branch of the government, and it’s the single largest consumer of oil on the planet. According to Foreign Policy, keeping aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf — to protect oil, of course — costs $7.3 trillion over 30 years, and a lot of that is fuel costs.


The military fuel bill in 2010: $13.4 billion. Last year, the Navy displayed a 49-foot command ship that can carry 24 troops and run on a blend of algae fuel and diesel. General Dynamics unveiled a land-based hybrid for military use in 2009.


According to Mabus, oil has to travel overland in convoys across Pakistan, and “it’s a vulnerability for our military. The Marines weren’t sent to Afghanistan to guard fuel convoys.” And that’s why the military is using solar power to replenish batteries, certifying aircraft like the F/A-18 Super Hornet to run on a jet/biofuel blend, and investigating hybrids and electric vehicles


One Marine company carries 120 radios, and solar blankets are now being used in the field that save them carrying 700 pounds of cells.


So Mabus issued a challenge — the military is looking for made-in-U.S.A. biofuels that don’t take food off the table and work in existing engines. So that explains why corn ethanol is probably out, and algae is getting so much attention. It can be produced on barren land, or indoors in vats.


Back to the L-ATV. It’s really cool looking, in a video game sort of way, isn’t it? It has 20 inches of independent wheel travel, which is 25 percent more than any current military vehicle. And this is important: “The L-ATV’s armored capsule is scalable and can accept multiple armor configurations to protect troops from IEDs and today’s other prevalent battlefield threats.” The IED protection thing is huge, and a big issue with Humvees. Here's what it looks like on video:



Oshkosh says it could quickly ramp up to produce the L-ATV if the military gives it the nod.


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