A few weeks ago, I came across a fun video on social media. The Black Rifle Coffee Company installed a pair of miniguns on a Tesla:
There’s a much longer version of the video that goes into great detail on everything they did to the Model X, but long story short, the vehicle was not made for military applications. Yes, it has miniguns (multi-barrel Gatling guns with an electric motor that makes it shoot really, really fast) chambered in the common military 5.56x45mm NATO round. It’s also modified and decorated to look like a military vehicle. But, it’s also got a coffee bar built into the back, and it’s still a Model X, and Model Xs are not known for their off-road chops.
In other words, it’s something Black Rifle Coffee Company takes out to trade shows and other events to get attention and sell coffee.
While I know there are many readers who would disapprove, keep in mind that militarizing everything has gone mainstream in American culture over the last couple of decades. It’s an aesthetic and style that a lot of Americans are going for with military-looking vehicles (Jeeps got their start in World War II, and the Cybertruck has a very militant vibe), tactical clothing to wear to the office and do your accounting in, and much more. Many Americans go beyond mere aesthetics, making military skills like shooting, HF radio, and doomsday prepping a hobby or even a career, all without enlisting or being commissioned in any military entity or working for law enforcement.
In other words, it’s a trend that can be used to sell just about everything, so military-themed coffee just isn’t that weird, nor is it weird to militarize a Tesla Model X to sell that military-themed coffee. Like it or hate it, it is what it is. If you don’t like it, you weren’t the target market, so BRCC doesn’t really care.
On the other hand, this silly advertising gimmick does remind us that there is some real potential for electrifying actual military vehicles, and believe it or not, a factory Model X can do just fine in many military roles.
Real Militaries Could Use Some EVs
With militaries being among the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, it would make sense to move to electric vehicles wherever possible.
I know what many of you are thinking. The Tesla Cybertruck looks mean AF. Its stainless steel skin and exoskeleton isn’t bothered that much by 9mm NATO rounds. It’s also big, like a tank, and will probably be able to do some off-roading. The front of it even looks kind of like a military truck. Just put a machine gun on top like a “technical” from the Great Toyota War and send it into battle, right?
I don’t even need to tell you what’s wrong with that idea, at least not yet. Truth be told, many military vehicles aren’t “tactical vehicles” at all. The U.S. Department of Defense has many, many vehicles that are regular cars and trucks. For every soldier, pilot, or mariner facing combat, there are 9+ other military personnel who will never hear the sound of gunfire outside of a shooting range. The people doing the actual fighting need to eat. They need clothing and maybe body armor. They need water. They need fuel. They need communications. They need information. They need transportation. To make sure all of that happens, there are lots and lots and lots of people wearing a uniform not carrying a rifle.
This massive need for transportation, combined with the Obama administration’s desire to promote electric vehicles, led the U.S. military to be among the first and the largest buyers of the Chevrolet Volt when it first came out. For driving around a military base or going into town for various reasons, they were ideal cars. In other words, for a large portion of military fleets, the needs are basically the same as for civilian buyers, so electric vehicles will work just as well.
But, when it comes to the actual fighting and logistics vehicles that roam far from where charging infrastructure has been built, or who need to operate in environments where infrastructure has been deliberately broken (or “bombed into the Stone Age”), electric vehicles might seem like something that just wouldn’t work. But, it appears that the U.S. DOD might just do it anyway. So, how are we going to make sure military personnel don’t end up stranded?
Here’s the thing: electrification actually increases your options. As it stands currently, most military land vehicles have one option for fuel: diesel. Put anything else in the tank, and things will go poorly. Diesel fuel, like anything else, doesn’t magically appear out of thin air right when you need it. So, militaries have to bring in lots and lots and lots of diesel fuel anywhere they’re going to fight. Even in places where diesel fuel is sold, it’s not going to be readily available after the Air Force breaks stuff.
With electric vehicles, the military has more options than shipping and trucking in diesel fuel at great expense. If diesel really makes the most sense, diesel can be used to generate electricity (either at bases or with a modular generator that can be fitted to the vehicle itself). Gasoline can be used for electricity. Nuclear reactors (some ships already have them) can be used for electricity. Hospital ships can be used for electricity. Portable solar panels can be used for electricity.
On that last one, it’s a great option. Generating fuel locally instead of moving it in from halfway around the world means less vulnerability. It means that the enemy can’t just attack your supply routes and prevent you from getting what you need to fight them.
A Tesla with miniguns is kind of silly, but real EVs in military service aren’t silly at all. If done properly, they’re really the best option.
Featured photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth; Public Domain, US Government. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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