By Patrick Olsen
The U.S. Army is looking for a few more miles to the gallon, and a new troop carrier that might replace the famed gas-hungry Humvee could get as much as 70% better fuel economy.
Specifically, the Army is working with Ricardo Inc., an engineering firm based in the U.K. but with U.S. offices, on building improved new troop carriers. The goal? According to Ricardo's website, "The goal of the FED program, launched in late 2008, is to improve military vehicle technology, reduce fuel consumption on the battlefield and reduce the nation’s dependence on oil." FED stands for Fuel Efficient Demonstrator.
One result is the FED Alpha, a troop carrier that gets roughly 70% better mileage than the M1114 Hummer, which gets in the neighborhood of 4 mpg. Of course, 70% better than that is not very competitive — it's about 7 mpg — for an average consumer truck, much less a car. An FED Bravo is also being developed and it runs on a hybrid-electric drive. Testing for that version is scheduled for later this year.According to Talking Points Memo, "Driver cooperation is another important fuel-efficiency factor. As the Army notes in background materials for the FED program, 'even the most advanced fuel economy systems can be undermined by a driver with a lead foot.' To get around that, the Alpha’s gas pedal is designed to vibrate and resist when a driver tries to go faster than the most fuel-efficient maximum speed, though there is an override for emergencies."
Other key improvements, according to TPM:
- The FED Alpha minimizes excess weight by using aluminum and aluminum alloys in structural elements.
- Specially treated low-friction parts courtesy of Ricardo.
- A custom engine, custom transmission and lightweight, high-performance brakes similar to those used in race cars.
While you won't be able to get those specialty parts any time soon, Army officials expect that some of it will make its way into the consumer arena before too long. Even so, the chances of Hummer — once seen as the icon for fuel inefficiency — being resurrected as a consumer brand seem far more remote than that.
By the way, Ricardo is the firm our sister site PickupTrucks.com uses to capture all the testing data at our pickup truck Shootouts. So, we can vouch for them.