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Army scouts hybrids; carmakers interested Fuel-battery Humvee may fit tactical order

May 29, 2002 MISHAWAKA, Ind. The AP reported that responding to the U.S. Army's call for a military vehicle that runs on both fuel and electricity, AM General Corp. is working to develop a hybrid diesel-electric Humvee.

This next-generation Humvee could use a silent electric motor to sneak up on the enemy and then finish the job with an electronic weapons system.

The U.S. Army's Tank, Automotive and Armaments Command's (TACOM) interest in a hybrid vehicle has attracted a number of interested companies, including Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and General Motors Corp.

AM General spokesman Craig Mac Nab said the Humvee, already used extensively by the Army, is a logical candidate. "They told us to find out what's out there, experiment with it, adapt it and find out how it can be used," Mac Nab told the South Bend Tribune for a report Monday.

The Army's program is called COMBATT, which stands for Commercially Based Tactical Truck. The hybrid tactical truck could take over for the Humvee in some situations, such as transporting supplies, says Eric Emerton, public affairs officer for TACOM.

"Most people forget the Humvee is a combat vehicle," Emerton said. "It's not designed as a tactical vehicle. The goal is to relieve the Humvee of that role."

The major automakers are interested in making a light-duty military truck because they could produce it in plants that make civilian vehicles. That could make it economically feasible to produce the limited number of trucks the military needs.

If the military did start relieving the Humvee of certain kinds of duty with a lighter, commercially based vehicle, it could have major implications for AM General. The company has been the sole maker of the Humvee for almost 20 years, delivering about 135,000 to the U.S. military during that time.

The company's plant in Mishawaka produces between 3,000 and 4,000 Humvees a year. If the military reduced its orders in future years, the 700 jobs at the Humvee plant, as well as company profits, could be affected.

But the military's search for a lighter vehicle also could lead it back to AM General. The company produces the Hummer H2, a civilian sport-utility vehicle derived from the Humvee.

The H2 is being produced for GM, which now owns the Hummer brand.

Neither AM General nor GM officials would comment on whether the H2 would be entered in the COMBATT program.

But an Army general formerly involved with TACOM, which is overseeing COMBATT, gave the H2 a thumbs-up on a recent visit to the H2 plant.

"This vehicle has many of the characteristics that are most desirable for what we are developing in COMBATT," said Lt. Gen. Roy Beauchamp, now deputy commander of the Army's Materials Command. "It has mobility, agility and capacity. That's what you're looking for when your life is on the line."