Navitas Systems LLC recently was awarded a four-year $7.2 million contract to develop second generation (Gen 2) lithium-ion batteries for military vehicles.
The US military and most NATO countries to-date have used lead-acid batteries in the 6T form factor to provide starting and energy storage for its ground vehicles. While this system is reliable and fairly inexpensive, it suffers from a number of significant drawbacks including low cycle life, low energy density/specific energy, poor recharge rate compared to other battery chemistries, high weight, and must be used in series pairs to meet the 24V electrical bus requirements on today’s more sophisticated military vehicles.
Given both the historical limitations of lead acid, combined with the increasing installations of new power-hungry electronics, the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) along with Navitas have been heavily investing in the development of prototype 24V lithium-ion 6T batteries and are in the process of testing the first generation of these prototypes.
Navitas (along with two other battery companies) has previously received research funding from TARDEC to develop Gen1 lithium 6T batteries, and was the only company selected for development funding of the next generation 6T battery. (Earlier post.)
Navitas’ newest and exclusive award will focus on developing an improved Gen 2 lithium-ion 6T battery for military vehicles. Over the last two years, Navitas has been developing an exploratory Gen 2 vehicle battery resulting in prototype alpha version Gen 2 lithium-ion cells and early prototype batteries.
Under this newest award, Navitas has been tasked by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC) to build upon this foundation, further develop and deliver improved, validated, and manufacturable beta versions of Gen 2 lithium-ion 6T batteries suitable for use in both legacy and new, advanced military vehicle systems.
These improved Gen 2 beta 6T lithium batteries are expected to have higher cold cranking capability than today’s lead acid batteries, and significantly increased energy density, with a weight savings of 70%.
Navitas will focus on optimizing the cell chemistry and mechanical design to amplify service life, energy density and low temperature power capability. The cell design will be tuned to maximize the use of currently available technologies, and cycle life will be achieved through optimization of the materials themselves. Cold crank capability will be increased, enabling introduction of new vehicles and systems into the field. The battery will deliver up to 100% improvement in energy (kWh) capacity over both lead-acid and first generation lithium-ion batteries, and will enable replacement of two lead-acid 6T batteries with one lithium-ion 6T battery in a vehicle.
Prototype Gen 2 6T batteries will be delivered to Oshkosh for in-vehicle integration and testing, which will be conducted by Oshkosh at their Global Technology Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Vehicle testing will verify and validate that the battery meets the demanding military vehicle performance requirements.
Navitas will actively support the delivery to and testing of battery packs including its advanced next generation proprietary battery management system at TARDEC and/or TARDEC-designated testing organization or vehicle demonstrator partner prior to proceeding to the manufacturing phase. The goal of the program is to deliver an improved 120Ah second generation lithium-ion 6T battery product which shall be validated through laboratory and in-vehicle testing, and qualify a domestic volume manufacturing capability.