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CHIPS Articles: Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Engineers Develop Silent All-Terrain Vehicle

Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Engineers Develop Silent All-Terrain Vehicle
By DON Innovation - December 1, 2017
The Silent All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) project was initiated to address a gap in warfighter capability identified by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and registered on the Science and Technology (S&T) Gap List for the Special Operations Component Commands [United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSOC), and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC)].

The requirement was to develop a robust engineering and technical demonstrator prototype solution that included the electrical system of a high-speed electric ATV with open architecture to allow future enhancements. One example of an enhancement is a generator (diesel, gas or fuel cell) to convert the electric ATV into a series hybrid vehicles that would enable range extension and increased operations of high power electric devices, weapons systems, and unmanned/autonomous operations.

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane engineers conducted an Electric Side-by-Side Powertrain trade study to investigate and address the delta between current commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electric vehicles powertrains and critical gaps in current electrical vehicles (EVs) when used for military application in austere environments. The team submitted a proposal and received funding to begin the Silent ATV project under the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) program.

The team identified estimated acceleration speeds and developed software controlled algorithm designs for motor control to allow for optimal powertrain performance. A commercial vehicle was then disassembled for 3D-modeling. A COTS powertrain was selected to replace the stock internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor. A custom transmission was designed and machined at NSWC Crane to replace the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) to improve power to ground and optimize control of the vehicle. Next, a custom harness was designed and assembled in-house. The components were then integrated into the chassis to complete the prototype vehicle build.

The Silent ATV prototype included modification of the commercial vehicle chassis, a specified max range per battery, a high maximum speed, an all-wheel drive drivetrain, and a two battery capacity with three different power outputs. In only 2 months, the Silent ATV prototype was ready for field testing and met the key performance perimeters (KPPs) provided by the end users. Within 12 months, the Silent ATV exceeded the KPPs’ top speed by 37 percent and the max range by 400 percent.

Due to the Silent ATV project’s early successes, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have funded follow-on efforts to take the Silent (Electric) ATV and develop a Hybrid Electric ATV and an Optionally-Piloted Electric ATV.

Earlier this year, NSWC Crane started work on the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Side-by-Side (SxS), which is a 4WD vehicle based on a Polaris RZR 1000 XP2 chassis. This vehicle utilizes a highly power dense generator powered by a Wankel engine to deliver up to 15kW of power while operating on jet propellant (JP) 8 fuel. The vehicle has onboard batteries capable of providing 19.5kWh of stored energy to the vehicle that can be exported for Electro-Optic, Electronic Weapon, Command and Control (C2), Surveillance, and various other payloads.

The Silent ATV project was executed following NSWC Crane's "warfighter driven" innovation process that emphasizes a collaborative intellectual environment which allows engineering subject matter experts to directly interact with the program office and system end users to address relevant warfighter challenges. By providing the innovator an in-depth understanding of the needs of the end user and enabling the program office to make real-time trade-off decisions during concept development, NSWC Crane is able to develop solutions expediting the acquisition process and reducing the lead time to field the systems to the warfighter.

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Hybrid-Electric SxS, Tactical UTV R&D Vehicle, and 219 Electric-Vehicle NSWC Crane Division photo by Ms. Stephanie Phelps/Released
Hybrid-Electric SxS, Tactical UTV R&D Vehicle, and 219 Electric-Vehicle NSWC Crane Division photo by Ms. Stephanie Phelps/Released
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