The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced a $2.7m investment in UK-based QinetiQ’s electric hub-drive technology.
As part of an electric propulsion system, QinetiQ’s hub-drive replaces multiple gearboxes, differentials, and drive shafts with compact and extremely high-powered electric motors contained completely within the wheels. This approach significantly reduces overall platform weight and opens up new design possibilities that improve safety and increase performance for military and civilian vehicles.
In addition to creating possibilities for pioneering future designs, the technology has the potential to enhance present-day military vehicles. For example, an existing multiple-wheeled infantry vehicle retrofitted with the hub-drive system could exploit the extra power and agility that comes with reduced weight, or use the saving to offset extra armor, equipment, or personnel.
The hub-drive system is in development as part of DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program, under a $1.5-million contract announced in September 2015. QinetiQ was the only non-US partner selected to take part in the program, which investigates breakthrough technologies that could revolutionize future military vehicles.
The latest $2.7-million investment, awarded in July 2016, is for taking the technology from a concept design into the building and testing phase, including production of two fully working units.
DARPA has released a video revealing a potential design for a GXV-T-inspired armored fighting vehicle featuring independent, long-travel suspension ideally suited to a hub-drive system:
The QinetiQ team is also looking at opportunities to introduce similar hub-drive systems into commercial sectors such as transport, agriculture, mining, and construction.
Hub-drive raises the possibility of radically enhanced mobility and survivability in a usable, affordable package, helping to reduce vehicle mass and retain a standard wheel size. The system could be scaled up or down for use on any number of vehicles, from dump trucks to space rovers. The benefits of enhanced power, high torque, efficiency, and agility are not limited to military vehicles, so we are keen to explore opportunities to use this technology in new and innovative ways.—Dr. David Moore, Director of Research Services at QinetiQ