Lately, whenever I see a civilian Humvee or Hummer H2 on the road , I imagine the number of $20 bills it now takes to fill it up (four!) It turns out that this has been on the minds of the military, too. The DOD has had a variety of programs to boost the fuel economy of military vehicles--some relying on pretty exotic technology--and now there's a prototype of a hybrid utility vehicle that could replace the current Humvee. This would be good news for many reasons.
The Army's concerns about fuel economy are different from those of the average consumer. Money is still an issue, but on a different order of magnitude. As we've seen in Iraq, the cost of a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel delivered into a war zone is much higher than what we pay at the pump, perhaps as much as $17/gallon. Fuel must be loaded at a local refinery or the nearest port and transported with sufficient security to avoid the kind of problem experienced by Jessica Lynch's unit. Dramatically improving the fuel consumption of military vehicles would shrink the security and logistical burden on the supply chain, in addition to cutting operating costs. It might also allow troops to operate further from their supply lines.
As the article suggests, the civilian spin-offs of this technology could enhance the usefulness and durability of hybrid vehicles already reaching the mainstream. I'll bet Governor Schwarzenegger would love to be their first civilian customer.