Diesel-electric hybrids vehicles are all the rage at the U.S. Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan. Rising fuel prices and attacks on fuel convoys in Iraq have inspired a number of programs to develop more fuel-efficient trucks. The idea, according to industry, is to cut the Army truck fleet's fuel consumption by 20 percent by 2010.But there are other advantages to hybrids, according to Gary Schmiedel at Oshkosh in Wisconsin, which builds the Army's Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. HEMTTs are tough mothers. During the January elections in Iraq, I talked to HEMTT crews who barreled through AK fire to pick up ballots (see photo for the result). Schmiedel says a new breed of HEMTT, the A3 model, will retain all the ruggedness and combat utility of its predecessor, but with the added capability to export up to 100kW of 3-phase AC power, thanks to its new capacitor-based hybrid engine.To test the A3, and as a public service, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Oshkosh sent a prototype to New Orleans to serve as a mobile generator. Since it uses the same standard of electricity as our public grid, exporting power is as simple as firing up the HEMTT and plugging in your appliance. The New Orleans-deployed A3 enabled workers to pump out the flooded basement of a hospital.Hybrids are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. But they promise overall savings over their lifetimes thanks to reduced fuel consumption. And they offer many benefits besides, including those demonstrated by Oshkosh's HEMTT A3 after Katrina. These days I'm on the hybrid beat for National Defense, so expect more on the subject in coming weeks.-- David Axe
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