Military developing stealth motorcycle to let forces travel fast and silent
5/13/14 5:43 pm chumakdenis 1
I do love the sound of a roaring chopper, but the U.S. military have another opinion about this.So, what U.S. army need?
Well, the Armed Forces need is a cutting-edge motorcycle that – among other things – is fast, stealthy and silent.
And they may have one soon – a two-wheel-drive hybrid that will give American soldiers a huge advantage downrange.
Militaries have used motorcycles in war and peace time for a century now. Their ability to go places conventional vehicles can't has earned them a place in every modern army's arsenal, including America's.
The most recent vehicle is a diesel version of the Kawasaki KLR650, dubbed by the United States Marine Corps the M1030M1. First introduced in 2005 and designed to run of JP8, the same grade of fuel used in the both the Abrams tank and HMMWV, know more widely as the Humvee, it supposedly has a top speed of 90 mph and a fuel consumption rate equivalent to 115 mpg at 55 mph.
Now DARPA is looking for something better, a hybrid-electric off-road motorcycle that offers not only excellent fuel economy but importantly, the ability to operate in either silent or near silent mode, which would give troops an ability to approach targets with much more the element of surprise on their side.
Two companies have partnered to develop that next generation replacement for the M1030M1. BRD is known for its RedShift all-electric motocross racing bike. Logos Technologies has developed a compact, multi-fuel engine-generator, originally destined for a unmanned aerial vehicle. Now the challenge is to bring the two systems together.
The media-generated term 'stealth' is somewhat of a misnomer; it implies the bike will somehow be invisible, but as Logos Technologies' Wade Pulliam, their director of advance projects development, points out, the goal of the program is to reduce the bike's acoustic signature, not its visual or infrared profile. The rider will still give off a heat signature, as will the exhaust.
The two teams met in San Francisco recently and both Pulliam and BRD's CEO Marc Fenigstein sat down and via telephone conference call talked with EV World's Bill Moore about the program. They have given a three-month development window to find a way to marry their two technologies, which they are only now beginning to explore.
As for the status on the Red Shift, Fenigstein reports that he will be making more announcements about their bike this summer.
DARPA – the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – recently awarded a small business innovation research grant to develop a military-use, hybrid motorcycle that will operate nearly silently in electric mode.
The partnership between two small innovative American companies, Logos Technologies and BRD, leverages the former’s expertise in hybrid power projects and the latter’s in creating state-of-the-art electric motorcycles.
BRD’s tagline may put it best: “Welcome to the future of fast.”
BRD RedShift - all-electric motocross racing bike
BRD Motorcycles is aiming high, looking first to become not a green brand, but a motorcycle performance brand rivalling that of global auto maker Porsche–and one that wins races.
BRD, a San Francisco start-up making all-electric racing bikes that promise to outperform even their gasoline counterparts in the motorcross and supermoto category, has backers including Mike Donoughe, previously an executive at Chrysler Group and Tesla Motors.
Donoughe has worked on the pioneering Tesla Roadster and many other new vehicles in his 28-year career in the automotive industry. He said BRD’s unique strategy is what attracted him.
“The company is not really a clean-tech play, even though the technology is green,” Donoughe said. “It’s a performance play that will appeal to cycling enthusiasts. Riders kill to shave a tenth of a second off their time… BRD’s first bike [the Redshift] is the real deal, and can impact race times by a few seconds, from what we’re seeing in trials.”
The co-founder and chief executive of BRD Motorcycles, Marc Fenigstein, said the company wants to become a brand as strong as Porsche in its category.
Fenigstein said BRD Motorcycles should be able to release its Redshift bikes to the market in the second half of 2013. The bikes, including the Redshift SM and MX models (supermoto and motorcross, respectively) will retail for the anticipated price of $15,495 and $14,995, respectively.
The Redshift bikes perform at parity with their gasoline equivalents in terms of “dynamic performance and total cost of ownership,” Fenigstein said, with 40 horsepower and a vehicle weight of 250 pounds. This is the fastest street-legal dual-sport bike, gas or electric, he claims.
The bikes offer a 50-mile range on a single charge. Fully recharging the bike takes four hours with a standard, public EV charger, or with use of a charging station at home that plugs into a normal, 120-volt wall socket. The charger is included in the price of the bike.
The company, which has seven employees, plans to complete all of its manufacturing in the U.S., and as much as possible in San Francisco.
On Wednesday BRD announced that it raised $800 000 from a cadre of angel investors. Its earliest backers hail from well-known Web, design, auto and advertising businesses.
In addition to Donoughe, they include Iain Grae, the founder of RealMotocross, a social network for motorcycle enthusiasts in the U.S.; Charlie Nearburg, the founder and owner of a Texas-based oil and gas firm; Gregory Miller, who previously worked as head legal counsel for Google; Andrew Fischer, the owner of a high-end furniture store called B&B Italia; and Jim Mickey and Glen Parsons, serial angel investors who founded Coastal Pacific Xpress, a refrigerated shipping company.
In the next year, according to Donoughe, investors want BRD to raise more venture capital, develop new, pre-production prototypes of the Redshift–prototypes they can trot around to dealers before they go into full-blown manufacturing–and conduct production validation testing. He said BRD has already garnered the interest of dealers who will ultimately sell their bikes into the marketplace.
The hybrid motorcycle advantage
Combat troops would get a whole lot of use – and a whole lot of fun – out of the rugged, lightweight, two-wheel-drive off-road motorcycles DARPA is looking for.
Speed and stealth are crucial when approaching the enemy, and current motorcycles are less than ideal because of the noise they generate. DARPA expects the hybrid to be silent in electric mode and very quiet when operating on fuel. (A typical motorcycle 25 feet away produces 90 decibels, about four times as loud as the proposed hybrid.)
Soft soil and narrow, steep trails can be difficult to navigate, and that’s why DARPA is calling for two-wheel-drive vehicles, which will be able to travel substantial distances on challenging terrain more easily.
And as warfare continues to require deploying small units to remote and extreme terrains, technology like this hybrid will allow U.S. forces to do more with less.
In addition to special operations work, it could be useful for a range of other purposes, including scouting, convoy control and military policing.
And it will provide more than a way to travel; the hybrid will be a portable electric power source, thus reducing the need to lug heavy batteries into the field.
Commercially available motorcycles don’t make sense for the military.
For starters, they tend to use gasoline, and most American and NATO military machines use JP-8, a formulation of jet fuel similar to kerosene and diesel fuel.
DARPA wants the vehicle to be electric-only for short periods of time and to run on JP-8 or diesel when it isn’t.
In addition to being heavy fuel compatible, the hybrid will have more than 10 percent better fuel consumption than the military motorcycles currently in use.
The features that the military would like – heavy fuel capability, two wheel drive and hybrid powertrains – have all been achieved independently, but this will be the first time all these capabilities are combined.
Hybrid-electric power is already finding its way into lots of commercial applications, from construction equipment to cars and buses.
Research has been underway to bring hybrid motorcycles like Yamaha’s Gen-Ryu and HV-X concepts to the consumer market. But the military requires hybrid tech capable of more.
BRD already has much of the design DARPA has on its wish list in commercially available motorcycles.
Enthusiasts claim BRD’s Redshift, with 40 horsepower and weighing about 250 pounds, is the fastest street-legal gas or electric dual-sport bike.
It takes four hours to charge with a standard EV charger, or a home charging station. A single charge gives the bike a 50-mile range.
And the BRDs are very robust. The company says they are “designed to handle being dumped, dropped, slid, tipped, and just plain crashed.”
In the first development phase of the military’s hybrid motorcycle, the BRD and Logos Technologies team will produce a preliminary design and demonstrate key elements like hybrid propulsion, engine, motor and power control.
In the final phase, the military would look at this hybrid as a replacement for those motorcycles currently in service, like the M1030M1.