GM Defense charts course for electric future at IDEX 2023
GM Defense president Steve duMont told Shephard that the 'future is electric' at IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
The US vehicle maker showcased its progress in electrification at the show, highlighting its battery capabilities and a hybrid armoured vehicle being pitched to the US Army.
GM Defense is leveraging massive investment to the tune of billions of dollars in vehicle electrification to pull through technology to the defence space.
However, the electrification of vehicles is not just about the planet, with hybrid and electric platforms offering militaries tactical advantages in power generation and silent drive.
Rather than leapfrogging from traditional vehicles to electric cars as in the commercial sector, GM Defense's chief engineer and director of advanced product development Paul Beaker told Shephard that hybrid solutions presented a good step forward for military customers.
On its stand, GM Defense showed the Next Generation Light Tactical Wheeled Vehicle or NGLTWV.
The hybrid drive system features 12 of GM Defense's standard batteries and a 2.8l Duramax diesel engine from a GM automobile used only to produce electricity.
The vehicle offers 100 miles of electric driving range, and its power output can be diverted to run increasingly power-hungry sensors and subsystems.
When under way using the engine, the battery is recharged, meaning the vehicle can stay in the field for longer, offering militaries more flexibility in how they operate.
The NGLTWV has been pitched to the US Army, and the company sees hybrid systems as a step towards military vehicles going fully electric.
Citing its 100-mile battery range, representatives from the company outlined a scenario where the vehicle could drive for 30 miles silently, sit for days while its personnel conducted a mission, drive back another 30 miles silently and then switch back to diesel-powered propulsion and recharge.
In support of its electric ambitions, GM Defense is rapidly scaling its capability to produce batteries, aiming to produce 2.5 million lithium-ion cells annually by 2025. Once achieved, the company plans to keep levels climbing to meet demand.
GM Defense has developed an all-electric variant of its Infantry Squad Vehicle. (Photo: GM Defense)
The batteries also have applicability in other areas, with GM Defense's battery expert Jim Khoury telling Shephard its generation one batteries had been used to power a UUV.
With sustained investment, the energy density of batteries has continued to improve. With this, more cells and more power can be deployed on a vehicle with the same or smaller size and weight footprint.
In some cases, the GM executives told Shephard that batteries could outlive the vehicles they power and then be recycled for other uses.
GM Defense is currently working in partnership with LG on its batteries, with the US firm inputting over 50% of the value of the systems.
In a demonstration of its technology, the GM Defense stand also showcased the fully-electric Hummer EV chassis, which carries 24 batteries.
Khoury said that the company was also exploring how the batteries could be used as part of the protection of a vehicle, leveraging their high density.
In this way, batteries could be used as part of the shielding the underside of a vehicle provides its occupants, should a mine or IED be struck.
As batteries are usually integrated into the bottom of a vehicle chassis, they also lower the centre of gravity.
With the evolution of electrification, duMont said he had seen as a 'massive' change in the mindset of the military as the tactical benefits came to be understood.
Nonetheless, he added that the most important thing was that the capability supported the mission.
Also at the show, GM Defense signed an MoU with the Emirati Tawazun council, which could clear the road for the future localisation of production and technology transfers to the Gulf state.
duMont said the MoU with Tawazun 'opened doors' for the US firm, adding that it would be 'methodical' in getting the most out of the agreement.
The UAE is interested in GM Defense's existing portfolio of vehicles, including the Infantry Squad Vehicle or ISV, which the company produces for the US Army.
GM Defense also showcased its hydrogen fuel cells, promoting them as a solution for taking the ability to recharge an electric vehicle with you, and demonstrated charging a Hummer EV with its hydrogen system.
GM Fuel Cell Powercube programme manager Michael Bearman said having a charger wherever you are is always faster than finding one.
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