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Australian Army to test Thales Bushmaster ePMV electric prototype.

| 2022

Rumbling diesel Bushmaster engines could one day be a thing of the past, replaced by the quiet hum of electronics, following the unveiling of a battery-powered prototype at the Chief of Army Symposium on August 10, 2022. Warrant Officer Class Two Max Bree reports.
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Bushmaster Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle after being unveiled during the Chief of Army Symposium 2022. In the background is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fitted with ruggedized solar panels. (Picture source: Australian Army/Warrant Officer Class Two Max Bree)

Known as the ePMV, its engine and gearbox have been replaced with a pair of lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor driving each axle. It’s the first Australian electrification of a military vehicle and is about 2 tonne lighter than a regular Bushmaster.

The centre of gravity has also moved rearwards and down, according to Colonel Robin Smith, director of Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office. “That helps with stability, high-speed and cross-country manoeuvre, and safety under braking,” Colonel Smith said. “It’s wickedly fast and we’ll be trialling speeds. But in theory it will do 0-60km/h in a little over three seconds. For a 12-tonne vehicle that’s amazing. Up to 100km/h will take about 12 seconds where the normal Bushmaster takes 42 seconds.”

The first version has about a 100km range, but a planned larger battery should increase this to 350km. There’s also work to mount small external generators, increasing the range to about 1000km.

The idea came from a 2020 Army discussion paper on power and energy. Colonel Smith said the Bushmaster was chosen as a prototype due to its availability, good armour and a looming decision on whether to replace or upgrade the fleet. It features high-speed charging, like a Tesla, filling the battery in about three hours or via a household plug in about seven hours. Colonel Smith said the several power outlets on the vehicle could be used for command posts and field workshops. “The vehicle’s battery power could run the average Australian home for just over six days,” he said.

The ePMV would require less maintenance and be more reliable, with no engine or gearbox. “This one uses no fuel but if we do a hybrid, that will use a lot less fuel than a regular Bushmaster,” Colonel Smith said. “It’s quieter and less warm, lowering the thermal signature, and it’s a software-driven vehicle so autonomy is easier.”

There is also more space between the driver and crew commander, and a modernised dashboard.

Colonel Smith said his team wanted to “get this into the hands of soldiers and really test its real-world performance”.

After a larger battery is fitted, the team will conduct road-capability trials and Colonel Smith said they were also looking at electrifying tracked vehicles.


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