Army Develops Lightweight, Fuel-Efficient Electricity Generator

The Army has designed a power generator that uses less fuel and weighs 1.5 tons less than those currently being used by the military.

The Research, Development, and Engineering Command's Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) collaborated with Spectrum Research Corp. of Albany, N.Y., to design and build a 100kW generator that is light enough to be towed by a Humvee but sturdy enough to go off road, according to a post on the Army Website.

The project is one of several to develop ways to use lighter materials in the standard gear soldiers must carry or tow around. The military also has been trying to find more user-friendly, cost-effective ways of getting power to soldiers in the field.

Sometimes the two efforts coincide, as they did with the generator. Edmund A. Nawrocki, leader of the CERDEC CP&I's Advanced Electromechanical Team, said in a press release that the fuel efficiency, reduced weight and size, and improved power quality make the generator generally more versatile than those being used now, and it could help the Army reduce the number of generator sets used in the field.

The new generator also has variable speeds and is load following, which means it can adjust its output as energy use fluctuates, he said. These design features could allow for a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and could help prevent wet stacking -- the buildup of deposits that can clog the exhaust system and damage the generator.

Fuel efficiency also comes from a hybrid electronic architecture with an energy storage subsystem that can provide uninterruptible power until the engine catches up. The generator's electromechanical components also reduce emissions, which not only helps reduce operational costs but also may prevent casualties associated with dangerous fuel runs, Nawrocki said.

The Army will evaluate the towable generator this summer. It does not have plans to produce more, but it will use testing feedback to inform future generator requirements.

Other Army projects designed to reduce the weight of items and improve power generation include the development of lighter batteries and a power-source vest. The Soldier Wearable Integrated Power System includes a main battery that can be used to power up a number of items, as well as pouch-mounted chargers and power cables for a variety of devices soldiers carry in the field.

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