MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (April 21, 2023)— Across the Defense Innovation Unit, we are facilitating a number of projects and solutions focused on increasing energy efficiency and reducing costs across more than 560,000 DoD buildings and 500 military installations. We’re also focused on driving energy resiliency, which allows the Department to carry out its mission more quickly and more reliably.
“We’ve reached a point where DoD views energy resilience as a real world operational problem that not only needs to be solved, but also that has the potential to save money and lives. This, of course, is closely tied to mitigating climate change ,” said Dr. Andrew Higier, DIU’s Energy Portfolio director. “DIU is positioned to help the Department be a leader on its various climate and energy initiatives.”
DIU also supported non-ITAR restricted prototyping associated small-satellite Earth imaging platforms from Planet and Capella Space Corporation, and currently is leading five prototyping efforts for global weather sensing using spaceborne and airborne instruments with the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s Weather Systems Branch. These efforts enable better monitoring of environmental changes on the earth’s surface and atmosphere.
With commercial technology leading the way, the DoD will be a fast follower in the adoption of clean and efficient energy efforts.
“As a Department, we’re making investments to adapt our critical facilities to climate-related risk while providing resilient energy and capabilities to our warfighters executing global missions,” said Joe Bryan, DoD’s chief sustainability officer. “These investments are good for the climate and, most importantly, they’re essential to mission success.”
Across DIU’s six portfolios and NSIC, our sister organization, we are excited to highlight some of our ongoing energy-focused projects:
Family of Advanced Standard Batteries (FastBat)
The Problem: Low-demand signal and complex specifications make it challenging for DoD to leverage current commercial battery technology. This results in the use of inferior and expensive batteries for military applications with the addition of non-interoperability needed to use across applications.
The Solution: DIU is engaging domestic and allied battery manufacturing through standardization of a variety of battery form-factors and use-cases. We will leverage investment and innovation made in the commercial storage technology sector for defense applications. This includes prototyping and validating commercial batteries within specific standardized form-factors relevant for cross-service applications.
Jumpstart for Advanced Battery Standardization (JABS)
The Problem: DoD's low-demand signal and complex specifications make it nearly impossible to engage with high-volume automotive battery suppliers.
The Solution: DIU is engaging electric vehicle companies to develop standard battery modules that leverage state-of-the-art commercial technologies for defense applications.
Arctic Grid Energy Storage (AGES)
The Problem: Climate change and melting ice has made the Arctic landscape increasingly accessible. With recent aggression from adversarial nations, the region is rapidly becoming a new front line with unique energy demands and operational considerations to deploy and withstand the extreme cold of the Arctic.
The Solution: AGES is a modular, mobile microgrid with an energy storage system that can be moved to different locations within the Arctic regions. It can be easily assembled and disassembled by Servicemembers. The prototype will provide reliable energy resilience in extreme cold weather -60°F (-51℃) and reduce generator fuel resupply issues that are prevalent in the icy Arctic area, among other benefits.
Extended Duration Storage for Installations (EDSI)
The Problem: The DoD needs access to secure, cost effective, and reliable energy that’s resilient to natural and man-made disruptions to support critical loads for days or weeks.
The Solution: To leverage emerging breakthroughs within long duration energy storage (technology, chemistry agnostic), the goal of EDSI is to provide energy storage solutions capable of delivering between 50kW and multiple megawatts of energy for more than eight hours to DoD installations.
Lithium Sulfur Battery Design and Manufacturing
The Problem: The DoD needs access to batteries that have high energy density but that are much less susceptible to fire and explosion than current technologies. Additionally, the United States needs batteries that can be produced domestically, using mostly U.S.-sourced materials.
The Solution: The company NSIC is working with has developed a proprietary process, enabling the production of Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) batteries. Li-S batteries aim to provide 3x the usable energy of Lithium-ion batteries while being safer and less susceptible to fire/explosion. Li-S enables fully North America-based sourcing and manufacturing.
Flexible Lithium-Ion Batteries
The Problem: The DoD needs access to batteries that are flexible, conformable, and that will remain functional and safe even when punctured, cut, or torn.
The Solution: The company NSIC is working with developed a polymer-based electrolyte that enables bending while providing self-healing capabilities that prevent thermal runaway, resulting in a battery as flexible as a rubber watch band that can withstand puncture or other damage.
The Problem: The DoD is dependent on offsite electricity to conduct its globe-spanning missions in air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. The Department is looking for a resilient, clean, non-intermittent form of energy for reliability and energy security to ensure mission continuity.
The Solution: DIU is working with commercial partners to innovative on-site geothermal solutions. The prototype is expected to be the first of its kind power generation geothermal plant, with a heating element if needed, that meets both the critical and non critical energy resilience needs of the bases.
Synthetic Fuels for Contested Environments (SynCE)
The Problem: Defense fuel and operational energy logistics are reliant on the global energy supply chain, which is easily disruptible. Current transport means are costly, inefficient, slow, and vulnerable to attack.
The Solution: We are working with the Air Company on a prototype to create fuel via electricity and carbon (direct ocean and direct air capture) for air, ground, and maritime vehicles. This project is an initial joint effort between DIU, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Department of Energy and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment. It will leverage the billions of dollars in investment in the Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry.
Hydrogen at the Tactical Edge of Contested Logistics (HyTEC)
The Problem: Fuel supply chains are vulnerable to disruption, and an energy-dense alternative fuel is necessary to sustain operational capabilities and improve energy resilience. While fossil fuels are energy-dense, the DoD’s reliance on them represents a vulnerability, especially for operations in remote or contested environments.
The Solution: The use of hydrogen (H2) as an alternate fuel source will help mitigate the challenges associated with fossil fuels and increase the DoD’s capabilities and reach. Fortunately, technologies are already widely available in the commercial markets in every stage of the H2 supply chain. The deliverable of this prototype effort is an integrated electrolysis-based towable H2 production and storage system capable of producing and dispensing 1 kg to 3 kg of 350 bar to 700 bar H2 in a 24-hour period. It is primarily powered by renewables with the option to use currently fielded tactical vehicles/generators.
Tactical Vehicle Hybridization (TVH)
The Problem: Tactical vehicles spend upwards of 75% of their operational time idling, which can result in burning 30% to 60% of their fuel while stationary in order to power onboard electrical systems. This reduces a vehicle’s operating range and burdens logistics chains, which wastes money and exposes critical vulnerabilities to operations.
The Solution: DIU is leveraging existing commercial technology to retrofit tactical vehicles fleets with hybrid energy-capture systems. The prototype is expected to result in a retrofit kit that is capable of installation at depot level maintenance facilities or by the original equipment manufacturer. It is expected that these kits will reduce fuel consumption by, at minimum, 20% across all fielded vehicles.
Electric Vehicle Support Equipment (EVSE)
The Problem: Charging infrastructure available to the Federal government is limited to Level 2 and low-power Level 3 car chargers. With the number of EVs increasing rapidly for both the government fleet and personal vehicles, there is a growing need to proliferate fast charging services within DoD and on military installations.
The Solution: DIU is currently working on several prototype projects with the Navy, Army Reserve, Air Force and the Marines. There is variation between these prototypes, but the typical configuration is 10 Level-2 and four Level-3 chargers with the goal to have both government and personal vehicles able to use all of these chargers. After the prototypes are built, DIU will complete a full system test of all of the features and then start a one year pilot.
Electric Search and Rescue (eSAR)
The Problem: Military small watercraft are powered by internal combustion engines that create logistical, storage, detection, maintenance, and environmental challenges as well as limits to capability and mission flexibility.
The Solution: DIU is leveraging commercial electric personal watercraft and small boat market offerings to prototype and demonstrate the utility of a fully electric personal watercraft-sized vehicle. These vehicles are capable of performing search and rescue and maritime reconnaissance operations and embarkation on naval ships. In concert with ongoing standardization efforts, it will address Navy certification of new battery technology and charging systems for shipboard use.