Improving Fuel Efficiency, Reducing Costs, Saving Lives

Fuel CellsLockheed Martin used funding from the Ohio Third Frontier to test its fuel cell-based generator’s field-readiness and capability to operate with military fuel. Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to produce electricity, reducing the amount of fuel needed by one-third to half.

With more than 100,000 in use around the world, generators are the U.S. military’s largest consumer of fuel on the battlefield, and are used for everything from communications to air conditioning to weapon systems.

Once transportation and security costs are included, fuel can cost from tens to hundreds of dollars a gallon by the time it reaches deployed troops. Convoys transporting the fuel and the troops protecting them are also frequent targets of enemy attacks.

Lockheed Martin’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) generator may be an answer to address these growing problems. Based on core fuel cell technology developed by Technology Management, Inc., a small Ohio business, these SOFC generators are uniquely compatible with the military’s standard JP8 diesel fuel and offer a solution to the military’s operational energy challenges.

During a three-week exercise at Fort Benning, Ga., Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated its SOFC generator to the U.S. Army. The SOFC generator proved it could increase mission capabilities with less fuel, quiet operation, non-toxic exhaust and low thermal signature. Based on operational feedback from soldiers at the exercise, the system also proved to be simple to operate.

“This exercise was a significant step toward fielding military fuel cell generators that can operate directly on JP8, which, historically, has not been the case,” said Steve Sinsabaugh, Lockheed Martin’s fuel cell capture manager. “Our generator was designed specifically to handle these dirty fuels seamlessly and without the need for cumbersome desulfurization equipment.”

More efficient generators will not only reduce costs but could help lower casualties.

“Our troops traveling in the fuel convoys are some of the most exposed warfighters in the field,” Sinsabaugh said. “Less fuel will mean fewer deliveries and more lives saved while also reducing operational costs.”

SOFC technology is an alternative energy source that efficiently converts fuel into electricity using a chemical reaction. Unlike combustion engines used in diesel generators, the SOFC process uses less fuel and significantly reduces carbon emissions. While Lockheed Martin’s SOFC technology operates on JP8, it is also fuel-flexible, allowing it to use indigenous fuels if necessary.

Lockheed Martin is also working with the Office of Naval Research on a hybrid version of the technology.

Posted on April 25, 2013