– The Silent Hybrid Motorcycles the Pentagon Will Use for Stealth Raids (Wired, April 18, 2014):
Special Forces teams are all about silently penetrating remote areas and executing complex, lightning-fast raids. Now DARPA is developing a new vehicle to soundlessly race commandoes to their missions: stealthy, hybrid-powered motorcycles.
The idea is to develop a hybrid power system that relies on both electric and gas power, allowing special ops to go off-road and zip past enemy forces with the silence of an electric engine, while also being able to handle extended missions and higher speeds with a supplemental gas tank.
In February, DARPA awarded Logos Technologies a $100,000, six-month Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract for a preliminary design to see just how viable the project is.
“Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of U.S. expeditionary and special forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments,” said Wade Pulliam, manager of advanced concepts at Logos Technologies, in a statement. “With a growing need to operate small units far from logistical support, the military may increasingly rely on adaptable, efficient technologies like this hybrid-electric motorcycle.”
Although still in the research phase, Logos plans to fit its quieted, multifuel hybrid-electric power system with an all-electric bike from San Francisco-based manufacturer BRD Motorcycles — a seven year old company that specializes in electric motorcycles.
For its base platform, the project relies on an existing (and what BRD calls “barely legal”) racing bike, the RedShift MX, a 250-pound all-electric moto that retails for $15,000.
“The team is excited to have such a mature, capable system from which to build, allowing an accelerated development cycle that could not be achieved otherwise,” said Pulliam.
As it stands now, the RedShift MX has a two hour range, but will be extended with a gas tank the size of which will be determined by the military in the research period. The focus on the electric element suggests that DARPA is more concerned with the stealthiness of the motorcycle than it is efficiency. And although the Redshift MX can reach a maximum speed of 80 mph, it’s hard to imagine that speed would be necessary on the rough terrain military missions would require.
The military has been trying to figure out how to implement a silent motorcycle team for some time. Last year, Zero Motorcycles was awarded a contract to develop a similar electric motorcycle for Special Operations that boasted keyless ignition, blackout capabilities and replaceable battery packs that run for about two hours.