Energy Secretary Chu Promotes New Detroit-based R&D Partnership With Military

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consuming about 5 billion gallons of diesel fuel. Most of that fuel is consumed by tanks and armored vehicles and electric generators that power tents, radios, and computers at forward operating bases in the battlefield.

In order for the United States to continue to project military power throughout the world, the country needs to find more efficient ways to supply fuel to bases and troops in war zones, DOD officials said.

“We need to diversify our energy infrastructure,” Chu said. “We have only one source of energy [diesel fuel].

But the partnership can also help the private sector, including automakers, by speeding civilian adoption of technologies, Chu said. Like global positioning systems and the Internet, the military has a history of being an “early adopter” of cutting edge technologies that eventually find their way into the consumer market.

With its large size and huge purchasing power, the military can find ways to drive down cost so they can be attractive down the road to the average consumer, Chu said.

For example, the military is exploring armor made of lightweight composite materials that can still protect vehicles from roadside bombs but also generate better fuel efficiencies. In addition, the armed forces is developing portable solar technologies that allows soldiers to generate and store energy in the field. All of this has potential consumer applications.

“We need to push these technologies into industry,” said Underscretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, who also spoke at the event.

Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development for Detroit-based GM, says automakers and the military share similar goals for their vehicles, including next generation engines powered by hydrogen and biofuels.

“The technology is viable,” Taub said, “but we need a cost structure in which the consumer can see the payback.”

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