WASHINGTON — Oshkosh Defense on Tuesday unveiled a silent drive hybrid electric version of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle it has fielded to the U.S. military and other customers.
“We developed the JLTV to offer our military customers an affordable way to electrify a light tactical wheeled vehicle fleet without compromising performance or protection,” John Bryant, Oshkosh’s president, said during a virtual briefing.
The eJLTV offers “a few critical additions” over the JLTV: exportable power, improved fuel economy and technologies that enable silent drive and extended silent watch, “eliminating the noise and heat signatures associated with diesel engines,” Bryant said.
The vehicle was developed using commercially available components and technology, he added.
Oshkosh chose to focus on a hybrid vehicle rather than a fully electric version because it eliminates the need for charging stations, a real challenge for using the vehicle on the battlefield.
The lithium ion battery charges while the diesel engine is in use, Bryant said. “It has the capacity of 30-kilowatt hours. The batteries, which are exceptionally durable, are designed to be used for a minimum of 10 years,” he added.
The eJLTV also has increased export power up to 115 kilowatts, Bryant said, eliminating the need for towed generators.
Transitioning from silent mode to conventional mode happens through a “flip of a switch, and you can do this on the go,” Bryant said.
The design also allows Oshkosh to turn existing JLTVs into hybrid electric versions.
Under the current contract to deliver JLTVs to the military, the company has already built 15,000 of the vehicles and will ultimately build over 66,000 by 2024 for roughly $30 billion.
“Electrification of the ground vehicle fleet has become increasingly important to our military customers,” Bryant said. “Oshkosh Defense has been employing hybrid electric technology for the U.S. military on heavy- and medium-duty tactical wheeled vehicles for years, although adoption has mostly been in small quantities, demonstration and test programs.”
In recent years, the U.S. Army and the other military services have been wading into the murky waters of fielding electric vehicles as industry comes forward with more options.
For instance, in May 2021, the Army held a demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, where it evaluated electric vehicle options to help inform requirements for a possible future Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or eLRV.
GM Defense last year hosted Army officials in Michigan, allowing them to test drive an all-electric version of the service’s Infantry Squad Vehicle, and discussing how to best operate and manage an all-electric fleet.
But when it comes to military vehicles, the services have tended to take the position that a hybrid electric version would likely be the more practical option, particularly for combat vehicles that require a lot of power.
The Army has continued analysis and technology development of a next-generation powertrain for the JLTV that considers hybrid and full-electric options.
The main reason Oshkosh developed the eJLTV “was because we listened to our customers,” Bryant said. “That message that we heard was that the military customer would want a hybrid electric technology and so we set out about a year and a half ago with concepts to develop that platform. We actually combined some of the requirements from a few different Army and Marine Corps science and technology programs.”
The Army is preparing to hold a full and open competition for the next JLTV contract. The service is not requiring or offering incentives for a hybrid electric vehicle design at this time, but is including a desire for improved fuel efficiency and the incorporation of lithium ion batteries to run certain capabilities like radios while the engine is off.
The Army plans to release a request for proposals early this year and award a contract to one team in September 2022. Navistar, GM Defense and AM General have all said they plan to compete.
“I believe the source selection criteria for the recompete [is] fairly well defined right now,” Bryant said. “I would be very surprised if the Army added a requirement for the eJLTV to the recompete itself. But, again, we’re ready. If the Army wanted to do that we’re ready to build them this vehicle right now.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.