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Hybrid tech heads to the battlefield

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    BAE Systems

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Think $4 a gallon is expensive for fuel? How about $400, or more?

That’s the all-in cost the U.S. Army sometimes pays to transport go-juice to combat troops operating in hostile territory halfway around the world. Factor in the incredibly poor fuel economy of armored vehicles that weigh in excess of 20 tons (think less than 1 mpg) and the price is quickly becoming a bunker buster for military budgets.

To meet the challenge, BAE Systems has been developing a hybrid-powered fighting vehicle for several years and is now moving from prototype to proving grounds.

More like a locomotive than a Toyota Prius, the vehicle uses a diesel engine to generate power for electric motors that drive the tracks. The main advantage to this is a 10-20 percent increase in fuel economy, but the instant and consistent torque provided by the electric motors is an added bonus, and the compact size of the mechanicals means there’s more room for personnel and equipment on board. Its electrical systems can also be used as a mobile power station for operations.

Intended to satisfy the requirements of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, which aims to replace a range of vehicles from the Stryker to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with more efficient designs, BAE’s proposal is a 29-foot-long, 140,000 pound behemoth that can carry 12 troops, has a 25 mm canon in an unmanned turret and a range of 186 miles between those pricey fill-ups.

New from the ground-up, BAE says its high-tech GCV platform can remain an effective fighting machine for the next 30 to 40 years and. Of course, as is the case with hybrid vehicles for the road, the price reflects its advanced underpinnings. Estimates put the cost anywhere between $11-$17 million per unit for the $10.5 billion program, two to four times as much as some of the vehicles it will be taking the place of in the Army of the future.