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A Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle after being unveiled during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022. In the background is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fitted with ruggedized solar panels. Photo: Warrant Officer Class Two Max Bree

Clean Transport

Dfens eMissions Electric Bushmaster & Electric Military ATVs

Electrification on the battlefield is a vision of Dfens eMissions.

Watching this video, you might think you are in a video game, and the soldiers are playing with children’s toys. But this is real. And all these machines are interconnected and electric. They are not on a mission, but an eMission.

While diesel Bushmasters were sent by Australia to support Ukraine, they may be a thing of the past. The rumble of huge fossil fueled vehicles may soon be replaced by the hum and road noise of electric vehicles. A Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle (EPMV) was unveiled in Australia on August 10, 2022 at the Chief of Army Symposium. Could it be the future? It is fitted with “ruggedized” solar panels for extra charging. The engine and gearbox have been replaced with a pair of batteries and an electric motor driving each axle, actually making it 2 tonnes lighter than the regular Bushmaster and moving the centre of gravity rearwards and down.

Colonel Robin Smith, Director of Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office, tells us: “That helps with stability, high-speed and cross-country manoeuvre, and safety under braking.

“It’s wickedly fast and we’ll be trialling speeds. But in theory it will do 0–60 km/h in a little over three seconds. For a 12-tonne vehicle, that’s amazing. Up to 100 km/h will take about 12 seconds, where the normal Bushmaster takes 42 seconds.”

The electric Bushmaster would require less maintenance and be more reliable than its diesel counterpart. The EPMV has a modernised dash, and electrification has created more internal space between the driver and crew commander.

To increase the range of the present version (about 100 km), there are plans to add a larger battery (for a 350 km range), or even external generators to increase the range to 1000 km. That’s one helluva REx. This would be enough range to drive the 12-tonne Bushmaster from Kiev to Moscow, should Zelensky choose to pop in for a visit. Unfortunately, Ukraine has become a trial zone for innovative use of technology in battle. But might this be the first theatre to trial electric military hardware.

Faced with a decision pending to upgrade or replace the Bushmaster, the electrification option was tabled in a 2020 Army discussion paper on power and energy. The Bushmaster was used as a prototype due to its positive history, good armour, and availability.

Where do you plug it in? Wherever you can on a battlefield — perhaps using portable solar arrays or printed solar cells, and wherever there is a working power point in urban areas. If high-speed charging is available, you can charge it just like you do your Tesla.

The batteries can fill in about 3 hours using high-speed charging, or seven hours using a household plug. The power outlets on the ePMV could be used to power a command outpost, a field workshop, or a hospital. The batteries of the ePMV could also be used to recharge electric bikes, motor bikes, drones, and other battery-powered surveillance equipment shown in the video above. Not being dependent on a fossil fuel supply chain for logistical support would be an advantage for the ePMV.

“The vehicle’s battery power could run the average Australian home for just over six days,” Colonel Smith said. “This one uses no fuel but if we do a hybrid, that will use a lot less fuel than a regular Bushmaster.”

“It’s quieter and less warm, lowering the thermal signature, and it’s a software-driven vehicle, so autonomy is easier.”

Colonel Smith said his team wanted to “get this into the hands of soldiers and really test its real-world performance.” The army team is planning road-capability trials after the larger battery is installed. Then, they will take a look at electrifying tracked vehicles.

Meanwhile, EVolution Australia has been working to build a world-leading, electric, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) prototype for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The eATV has been designed in partnership with the Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG).

The e-ATV is a converted diesel Polaris which prioritises stealth and manoeuvrability above all else. Each wheel is individually powered — “meaning the vehicle can navigate and retreat from dangerous situations with one of its wheels damaged.” It’s got ample power, too. “This unit has an AC induction 50kW rear motor with dual 10,000W motors for independent front-wheel drive.”

The Evolution e-ATV “has a top speed of 60 km/h and has a range of between 150–200 km, all powered by the custom-designed 24kWh LifePro battery pack. With regenerative braking and independent all-wheel drive, the e-ATV is designed to output the best, even in the worst of situations.”

A fully electrified vehicle has reduced noise and heat signature in the field, making it perfect for covert operations. Like the Bushmaster, the e-ATV can be used, recharged, and stored anywhere there is a conventional power plug and a working grid. One could speculate that a fleet of e-ATVs could be powered by the Bushmaster itself. Enough portable solar charging panels could provide self-sufficiency. No need for fuel trucks.

The e-ATV also packs power to load — 240 volts exportable — so it becomes a mini-hub, able to power tools and smaller devices, like drones.

“We’re extremely proud of this rewarding outcome. The e-ATV is by far the coolest project we’ve worked on and we’re very grateful to the DSTG for partnering with our leading Australian-owned conversion business in this exciting emerging sector.” —Russ Shepherd, Director of EVolution

Electric ATV

A military e-ATV. Image courtesy of EVolution Australia.

Russ describes this vehicle as the pinnacle of what they have done in terms of EV conversions. It wasn’t an easy project. He thanked everyone involved: “A lot of incredible mind and hand made this whole thing possible.”

EVolution Australia is available for other conversions for those who want to convert their dream vehicle to electric. They don’t just do work for the Australian Defence Force.

With an electric Bushmaster as the mothership and e-ATVs as the next part of the web, one can envision stealth reconnaissance and defence. Sadly, war is an accelerator of invention and innovation. Hopefully, when peace returns to the wheat fields of Ukraine, this battlefield technology will be put to better uses.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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