Sometimes a headline is so enticing that, even while you are laughing at it, you have to read the article to see what it is really about. I encountered one such on Bloomberg News a little over a week ago, reading, “US Army’s Electric Tanks on Hold as Battery Technology Develops.”
The article does not even mention the irony of building a machine that is friendly to the environment while its purpose is blowing the shit out of that environment with high explosives. Such a tank would not produce carbon pollution, but would leave lots of radioactive waste behind from its depleted uranium ammunition. The logic of that thinking is pretty hard to comprehend.
More prosaically, the “Electric Tank” was entertaining in itself, but that the concept is “on Hold as Battery Technology Develops,” rather than being, “Discarded as Battery Technology Determined to be Infeasible,” sort of blew my mind. I visualized George Patton ordering his tanks to advance, only to be told that his tank commanders could not find a place to plug them in for recharging, and screaming at HQ for a longer extension cord.
The article tells us early on that recharging an “electric tank” (I love that term) in the field would require, “a 17-megawatt charging station—more than 20 times bigger than the largest mobile generator the Army currently has,” which rather understates the problem. For one thing, a tank battalion would need about 50 to 60 such mobile generators, and they would be really big, create a huge heat signature, and would be really, really difficult to hide from enemy air and artillery attack.
And what would these mobile generators be using to generate the electricity with which to recharge these “electric tanks”? Solar power? Not if it’s raining. “Sorry, General Patton, we can’t move until 30 minutes after the rain clears up.” Wind? Oh dear God, even the Army isn’t that stupid. You’re going to set up windmills in a battle zone? How about a big flagpole? Maybe send up flares.
Yes, girls and boys, those mobile generators are going to run on fuel oil.
So now you need a bunch of tank trucks to bring fuel oil to fuel up the mobile generators which are being used to recharge the “electric tanks.” Of course you see where I’m going with this, right? Why not just put the fuel oil directly into the fucking tanks, and eliminate all this electric nonsense?
We won't even get into the difficulty of building a battery that is not only that large without overheating problems, but one which will accept a charging rate that high.
So while the Army is in the process of developing this paragon of inefficiency, it’s shorter term goal is to “focus on developing hybrid combat vehicles, which it thinks are attainable, useful, and can reduce our sustainment footprint,”
News flash. I actually served on a “hybrid combat vehicle” sixty years ago. It was called a “diesel electric submarine.” When operating on battery, we could maintain a dazzling speed of four knots, which is about how fast you walk when you are slightly pressed for time but not really in a hurry.
I don’t know what our “sustainment footprint” was, but I can assure you that our efficiency sucked.